Street Vendors Go Digital

USB sticks have become so common that they have become part of the merchandise of the street vendors in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 25 April 2019 — If a decade ago, when the first USB memory sticks began to circulate in Cuba, someone had insisted that a few years later they would share space with scrubbing sponges, instant glue, and disposable razors on the blankets of street vendors, they would have received a loud burst of incredulous laughter. Now, the devices, also called pendrives or flash memories, have become so common that they have become part of the merchandise of the street vendors in Cuba.

This storage device is not only everywhere, but its capacity to save files surpasses by many times that of the first USBs that barely held a few megabytes. “I have memories of 16 and 32 gigabytes,” explains an elderly man who sells batteries and aluminum scouring pads, among other products, outside the Central Train Station in Havana. Although the retiree does not even have a mobile phone, much less a computer, he says that “these are the good kind, the ones that don’t break.”

“For 15 CUC you can have the biggest and for 8 the one with the smallest capacity,” says the informal vendor to an interested party who tries to get a discount. “No, I can’t lower it by even a peso because that is what they are worth everywhere, you aren’t going to find them cheaper,” he adds. To convince the indecisive customer he assures him that “with this in your pocket you won’t ever have to watch Cuban television again because anyone can copy series and movies for you.” With the same one, he turns to another customer and tells her of the advantages of the teflon rolls he has on sale for plumbing jobs.

In the late afternoon, the man has managed to sell a few USB sticks. With his blanket placed on the sidewalk he is a small but vital link in the long process of digitalization that Cuban society is experiencing.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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