Terabytes / Yoani Sánchez


On my balcony there is a yagruma tree. Leaves in the shape of hands with rounded fingers, white underneath and green above. However, its sympathetic shape and its peculiarity in growing in a pot more than fifty yard above the ground are not what I like about it. Rather it is its capacity to adapt. It has understood for years that the concrete ceiling won’t allow it to grow straight, and so it leans outward, hanging its boughs over the wall fourteen stories up. After the cat damaged the trunk sharpening its nails it developed scars around a thicker bark, more protective. Before every obstacle it meets it finds a way to avoid it; before every attack a mechanism to protect itself.

Our daily lives are filled with lessons like that of the “potted Yagruma.” For example, in my neighborhood the young people have configured numerous wireless networks to exchange programs, games and files. Like the balcony plant, they don’t want to shape themselves according to the limits placed on them by reality, among which are the absurd restrictions on free access to the Internet. So they have created their own paths to navigate, although in a rudimentary and limited intranet. With a lack of information channels not under the strict supervision of the State other paths also arise to exchange, buy and sell foreign television programs, music and films. In a dizzying variety and quantity.

“How many terabytes do you want?” one of these boys asked me this morning; though he has barely turned twenty he’s already in the “information business.” His question short-circuited my brain because I’d learned to calculate in megabytes, and later in gigabytes, but this is too much for me. He then detailed his offer. He has packages of serials and documentaries, that run from historic themes, espionage, science and technology, to complete biographies. As he could see that I was reader he also added a collection of interviews with the most important authors of the Latin American “Boom.” He left for the end titles such as “The Great Assassinations of History,” “The Drug Route,” “Extreme Surgery,” “China: An Abyss Between Rich and Poor”… And I stood there with my flash drive in hand not knowing what to choose. In the end I took several gigabytes of a wide variety and ran home. With the same sense of victory as that yagruma which, despite the strict limits of the roof… has managed to slip away toward the vastness.

21 August 2012