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Nov 08

Cyber-indigence in Cuba

Please, when you write to Zenaida, tell her not to forget to send the shoes for Carlitos’ graduation, the eye drops for Claudia and the cooking yeast.

And please, please, remember to also remind her that the power supply of the computer isn’t going to hold up much longer. Oh, and tell her that if she has a cell phone that she’s not using, not to even think about throwing it out – Danae needs one urgently here.”

I heard such overbearing requests the other day on a bus.

At the moment, unwittingly, I couldn’t help thinking about those times — almost daily — when I use e-mail for similar purposes for myself, my friends and my family.

On numerous occasions I too have sent out such online S.O.S.’s to friends and acquaintances.

In a previous post, I gave a name to the infrequent users of new technologies in Cuba such as that woman or myself, I called them “indirect users,” since that’s pretty much what we are.

People who commonly turn to this now seasoned service of emailing have found a new setting for all kinds of catharsis and revelations. Here in

Cuba, we’ve ended up substituting the confessional box of the Catholic Church for the inbox of an e-mail account, or we’ve replaced the priest with his vow of silence for the dubious silence of a friend or acquaintance who does us the favor of sending our message.

With so few Cubans being able to get online, we’re forced to engage in dysfunctional uses of that service so as not to lose touch with our loved ones. This has also turned some emigrants into good Samaritans as they constantly provide us their unselfish assistance.
Cyber-indigence in Cuba has a dual character: On the one hand, Internet access by Cubans is the lowest in the Western world; and secondly, the e-mails sent to loved ones abroad, are too often requests for medicines and all kinds of other goods that are always deficient on the island.It’s not uncommon in Cuba to see those people who have the enormous fortune of being able to access e-mail from their home or at work, sending emails in which they plead to people who they barely know or those with whom they’ve hardly dealt with in their lives.

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