She dialed the number and waited. Nothing, not a ring, not even a busy signal. She tried again and then got a woman’s voice telling her to wait on the line. After several minutes she realized it was a scam, but she’d already lost half the value of her prepaid card. Finally, she was able to connect, but her mother’s voice sounded as if she was speaking underwater and she was barely able to say she was fine and that she missed her. The line was cut and her call to Cuba ended.
Among the many dramas that play out because of emigration, in the case of Cuba we have to add the complications of communicating with Island. We have the most expensive rates in the world for those who want to communicate with us, only comparable to countries at war or nations collapsed by some conflict. Cuban exiles have spent billions over these more than 50 years to talk to their families in their native land, resources subtracted from the hard work of opening a path to a new reality.
Thus, the announcement of a direct connection between Cuba and the United States for voice calls has been received with hope, a sign that such telephonic absurdity may soon end. The signing of the agreement between the US-based IDT Domestic Telecom Corporation and our national monopoly ETECSA opens the door to other possible understandings in this important area. It is a first step whose effect is still barely noticed, but which is undoubtedly good news for those living with affections fragmented by the Florida Straits.
In Cuba, expectations are focused not only on being able to call the United States directly without having to go through third countries. Eyes also shine when people imagine that they might be able to access the Internet via this pathway. A data connection managed by [US] companies but accessible from the Island has become the most widespread desire for those who don’t want to wait another year to enter cyberspace.
However, this possibility has not yet been mentioned by ETECSA, which, like any company that responds not to commercial interests but rather to ideological ones, prefers to prolong censorship over the Internet to earn money. But that’s just for now. Still, it is a relief that very soon Cuban exiles and emigrants living in the United States well see a reduction in the stumbling blocks to communications with their relatives in Cuba. Picking up the phone, dialing a Cuban number and waiting for a line will not continue to be an adventure with unpredictable results.
Yoani Sánchez is a Cuban journalist and activist. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people (2008). She lives and publishes in Havana, but because of government restrictions on the media her blog cannot be viewed there. Read more by Yoani.