Gimme Cable! / Yoani Sánchez

Photo from Corbis

Some of the boredom of the year 1983 was broken by the visit of Oscar D’Leon and his performance at the Varadero amphitheater. Amid the tedium, he came to the Island of the Salsa Devil, to interpret with his voice our own son classics. Along with the shout of “siguaraya!”* which he launched in honor of the banned Celia Cruz, the most memorable part of his visit was the request, “Gimme cable,” which he repeated over and over during his concerts. He tugged on the microphone while demanding that the technician “Gimme cable, gimme cable” as he plunged into the dancing crowds, overcome by his music. On his departure he left us that phrase which became a metaphor for demanding freedom. “Gimme cable,” the kids would say when the parents demanded they cut their manes or get rid of the tight paints. “Gimme cable,” demanded the illegal vendor when the police confiscated his merchandise. “Gimme cable,” asked the husband, when the wife went through his pockets, consumed by jealousy.

The expression slept in some corner of my mind and has reemerged with the “appearance on the scene” of the fiber optic cable between Venezuela and Cuba. Promised since 2008, it only made it to our coast this last February, and then lapsed into a silence quite suspicious for an effort that already cost more than seventy million dollars. At first it was announced it would multiply the data transmission speed by 3,000 times, but now, absurdly, they declare that it won’t provide broad Internet access to nationals. After accumulating several corruption scandals, the investigation of two deputy ministers, and official guidance to journalists not to talk about the details, the controversial cable has now become an urban legend. Some assure us that they’ve seen it, touched it, and say it’s already providing service to a few people. Others assert that it’s just a smokescreen to placate the discontent of the disconnected Cuban Internauts.

The truth is that not a single kilobyte flowing through its modern fibers has yet reached our computers. The prices for surfing the web from the hotels continue to be prohibitive and the connections there suffer from a slowness that borders on fraud. Not only that, the assault on the social networks — such as Facebook and Google — has intensified in State workplaces. In a desperate act to make us believe that this phantom umbilical cord between Santiago de Cuba and La Güaira, Venezuela really exists, Deputy Minister Boris Moreno swore a few days ago that it would be working in the coming months. But many of us feel like that Venezuelan singer trying to reach his Cuban public despite the controls of the “sound technician.” Gimme cable! we ask and demand. Gimme cable! we think… as in that old metaphor for freedom.

Translator’s note:
The siguaraya is a Cuban bush
— considered an orisha in the Santeria religion — which figures in the the title of a famous song, Mata Siguaraya, sung by Celia Cruz and others. The expression “this is the country of the siguaraya” means “anything is possible here.” Starting about 3:00 minutes in this video you can see Oscar D’Leon in Varadero trying to get a longer cable, and, at 3:30 you can hear him singing “dame cable” (give me cable) over and over, and watch with the efforts of several sound technicians to meet his demand.