If It’s Wires We’re Talking About… / Rebeca Monzo

Wires have been omnipresent elements of our culture, especially during the past few decades.

There are those fine, multicolored wires, those you find scattered on the streets after telephone lines have been repaired. These, up until a few years ago, were sought for and collected by empirical artisans who, given the scarcity of paste jewelry in stores, improvised necklaces and earrings, much sought after by our women to dress up their poor outfits.

There was also another type of wire, a bit thicker, whose bits were kept as treasures—in improvised storage bins—for those moments when bracing the leg of a piece of furniture or tying up springs in an old sofa was needed.

Now it is the fiber optics cable that has become fashionable. That wire that will supposedly give us better and wider Internet service, here in a country where internet connectivity has become a fantasy for the majority of the population. Official figures insist that a little over a million Cubans have access to a limited Internet service. In good creole Spanish, this really means Intranet service. In other words, those who have the equipment required, plus the privilege of E-Mail access, can navigate through the internal network of the country, but none at all to have access to the World Wide Web, and few to any kind of chat services.

The authorities in our planet have made it quite clear to all that this is not about extending web access, but about allowing present users (mostly from the State) a higher connection speed. Despite this, those of us who insist in believing in progress welcome it, because, in the long-run, one way or another, many more of us will also benefit. So then we arrive at the last wire we wish to talk about, the one that is precisely the best-known among us, due to its sustained and continuous use: The line* that most of us who survive here have been eating for over half-century.

*In this context, “comerse un cable” does not translate literally into “to eat a wire”; it is an idiomatic expression (in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and other Spanish-speaking countries) that refers to boredom / idleness / lack of money—depending on the country—and always related to lack of work or activity. A literal translation, then, is not possible without an explanatory foot-note.

Translated by T

February 9 2011