14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 8 April 2020 — Glued to the screen all day, that’s how a neighbor of my building has decided to spend the quarantine. With face-to-face classes suspended, the young university student fulfills the old dream of doing nothing but watching TV series and enjoying video games. The family lets him be at ease, “if he is entertained he eats less,” his mother tells me by phone.
In the midst of the advance of the pandemic, informal content distribution networks are the only ones growing, on an Island where food is increasingly lacking and the economic situation is bottoming out. Despite the closure of private cafes and restaurants throughout the city, the “weekly packet” with its compendium of audiovisuals continues to come out religiously every week.
Piracy reaches impressive levels and what premiered on Netflix yesterday will be on the black market tomorrow. Even the challenge that circulates on social networks to recommend several movies to watch during confinement, has become a reality on this Island where friends call each other to suggest titles, comment on a performance or issue a criticism of a film.
There is everything. Materials to make one laugh, to escape the stress of the pandemic and even to learn about historical events or social dramas. The imperative of many is to avoid turning on the official television that addresses the coronavirus with the same rhetoric of the confrontation that until recently they used to talk about the United States or the dissidents.
“Combat,” “win,” “battle,” “trench,” are some of the words that officials repeat in front of the microphone. So much strain has led many people in my neighborhood to only turn on the national channels when the Ministry of Public Health is going to announce the daily update: today’s figures are 12 deceased, 457 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 1,732 people confined for observation in the country.
Those who can afford a web browsing package from their mobile, alternate movies and video games with occasional dives into social networks, while trying to save every megabyte because the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, has not offered any price reductions for connections from cell phones during daytime.
There is a rare tranquility on Twitter. The network of the little blue bird. Where before, for each account of an independent citizen, there were thousands of anonymous profiles that repeated pro-government slogans and launched attacks against critical voices, now the cyberclarias (‘cybercatfish’ or official trolls ) have almost disappeared. With classes suspended at the University of Computer Science and at many state job centers, the “revolutionary” momentum has deflated.
I confess that it is a little boring not to see that avalanche of “handsome men” (thugs) on the Internet, who hide behind a false photo, a manufactured name and access to the subsidized website that they must pay for – part – by engaging in acts of repudiation in the virtual village. To me, who has been stalked by these combative tweeters with special viciousness for 12 years, this absence seems to me as speakers that had been blasting into my window were suddenly turned off.
To remember them, and to exorcise them, I have bought a folder of documentaries on the black market that addresses the Great Chinese Firewall and the strict censorship of the Beijing regime on the publications its citizens post on the networks. I spent hours looking at several of them and yes, as my neighbor would say, while I was glued to the screen I skipped lunch and almost forgot about food. Tomorrow I repeat… to save food.