Protected Soap Opera

I run into a neighbor in the elevator, we exchange greetings, comments about the weather, questions about whether eggs have arrived at the corner shop. We are still on the sixth floor when, in the protected and momentary privacy of the cabin, she tells me that thanks to me she’s been able to watch a Colombian soap opera. I don’t understand. What relationship could there be between this skeptical blogger and the dramatic soap operas skilled in wrenching tears from people on the other side of the screen. But the woman insists. With four floors still to go before we reach the ground, I begin to think of the scripts of the old Félix B. Cañet.

The answer comes to me in the most unexpected way. As the elevator signals Floor 3, she tells me that her fear of the dark park — on one side of our building — was an obstacle to her going to a friend’s house every night to watch an episode of her soap opera, captured by an illegal satellite dish. But now, she said with gratitude, that strip of concrete and vegetation is guarded 24 hours a day. I look like I don’t understand, but she stresses that the Interior Ministry agents that surround my house have made the neighborhood safer. I would prefer to believe that those shadows I see from my balcony are the fantasies of someone who consumes too much fiction, but the woman returns to the charge. She won’t let me hide behind a smile, rather she wants to emphasize that she owes it to me that she can get to the other building safely.

I’m unexpectedly overcome by horror, someone just thanked me for being raw meat for the surveillance machinery, the target of guards. I’ve never seen a more lighthearted way of understanding repression, but I laugh with the neighbor, what else can I do?! Not wanting to seem distant, I ask her about the plot of the soap opera I have “helped” her to enjoy. She details it with delight. It’s a re-creation of the eighteenth century, with slaves on the run, matrons hiding their illegitimate children from their husbands, the sound of whips landing on backs, dark narrow paths guarded at night by overseers with dogs.

12 thoughts on “Protected Soap Opera

  1. Eric, Cubans are very aware of the quality of life in Cuba and the USA, that’s why millions have left and millions more want to leave. Please read my comments directed at you in the previous post.

    You should live as a Cuban before being so sure of yourself.

    Best wishes to you.

  2. I would still much rather live in Cuba then I would in the US. You quality is far better, even if you are unaware of that fact.

  3. I agree with you Esmeralda, The Lives of Others is an excellent film. It typifies what the East German communist regime subjected it’s people to with it’s domestic spying and surveillance apparatus. A system that was installed in Cuba by the East Germans themselves.

  4. Esmeralda, I have heard it is a great film and I will watch it. And I agree with everything you said. It is a moral duty of all honest people to support the Cuban people whose right to dissent has been crushed for over 50 years.

  5. I recommend the 2006 German film ” The Lives of Others”( Das Leben der Anderen)and I wish I could send it to Yoani and her friends, but I know I would risk her/their lives. I am sure you’ve all( if not some of you) have heard of it and maybe even seen it. It won an Oscar for best foreign film in 2007, but even without this prestigeous and often overrated award, it is an excellent portrayal of the supressing and controlling Big Brother society totalitarian communism creates. In the old GDR( DDR) 24 hour survelliance of dissidents and individuals who showed any individuality or free will was endemic, which I am sure you are all aware of. But the system that was created did not quench the yearning for freedom in peoples’ soul, that same hunger for freedom that Obama so eloquently talked about in his speech at the recent fall of the Egyptian president. I am no expert on Cuban affairs or politics for that matter, and many of you have far more information accessible in the U.S than we get where I am. I thank Avalanchito for all his interesting info, almost enough to form his own blog!( A compliment.) We should remember that the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fell without the help of the internet or any social networking websites and that Cuba can be liberated without the internet. It is destined to go the same way!!! The two geriatrics at the power have to move aside for modernisation. However, I believe that the role of the U.S is paramount in the democratisation of Cuba, but it should be a non-invasive and humanitarian role far removed from the imperialistic and patronising methods of the past.It is about freedom not cold war politics, Yoani meanwhile has to beware of even old ladies that watch innocent soap-operas!

  6. The thugs are finally serving a useful purpose: Neighbors can visit each other safely and watch television in peace.

    Very soon, lower cost internet satellite dishes will allow people to connect directly. They won’t need Chavez’ fiber optics cable. Lets hope the goons continue to protect them in the same fashion.

    Common Obama, get the satellite rolling over Cuba.

  7. ***
    Stay safe, Yoanni. MININT fears you–and the truth. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Free Cuba!
    Sea seguro, Yoanni. MININT tiene mierdo de ti–y de la verdad. Siempre esta mas oscuro antes que llevanta el sol. Cuba Libre!
    John Bibb

  8. And Raul has admitted that plans to hold elections, first announced in 1959, have run into further delays. He has said that 11 million gusanos in Cuba must be further re-educated before productive elections can be held.

  9. REUTERS CANADA: Castro says Cuba’s mass layoffs delayed-Mon Feb 28

    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban President Raul Castro has admitted that plans to lay off 500,000 state workers by March are behind schedule and that the process will be delayed to help soften the impact of the cuts, state-run television said on Monday.

    The layoffs are a centerpiece of his reforms to modernize Cuba’s Soviet-style economy, but the report said Castro told the government’s Council of Ministers that a project “of this magnitude, which affects in one way or another so many citizens, cannot be framed in inflexible periods.”

    “Taking into account the delay in the start of the process, Castro advised to adjust the timeline of its execution, at the same time that he reiterated the will of the Cuban state to leave no one unprotected,” it said.

    The report did not say how long the layoffs would take, but said the speed would depend on the capacity to create proper “organizational and legal conditions.”

    Castro’s plan had called for the government to slash 500,000 “nonproductive” workers by March 31 and another 500,000 in the next few years, or about 20 percent of the island’s workforce, to reduce state expenditures and encourage more productive activities.

    Castro has said the reforms, which encourage more private initiative and lighten the state’s hand in the economy, are critical to the survival of Cuban communism.

    Workers have been cut in some ministries, but the numbers are not believed to be high and have not been disclosed.

    Many Cubans welcomed the layoff plan, saying it was long overdue, but many others were nervous about losing their jobs in a country that has basically guaranteed employment and provided social benefits for little or no cost.

    The average Cuban makes the equivalent of about $20 a month.

    The government has said that those laid off, which it calls “available” workers, would be offered jobs in sectors where there is a shortage of labor, such as agriculture, construction and education.

    A recent newspaper report said the plan had gotten off to a slow start because of poor communications and because thousands of committees that will decide who would be fired were not well prepared for the task.

    It was not yet known whether the slowdown would affect Castro’s overall reform program, which is to be officially approved at a congress of the ruling Communist Party in April.

    Cuba’s economy is burdened by billions of dollars of debt, dependence on imports, expensive social programs, government bungling and effects of the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against the island.

    The government is the midst of issuing 250,000 licenses for self-employment, which already has resulted in a relative boom in small businesses selling items from food to pirated DVDs.

    (Reporting by Esteban Israel; Writing by Jeff Franks; Editing by Peter Cooney)

  10. Pay attention to the simile “dark narrow path guarded at night by overseers and dogs”. That’s the tragic soap opera Yoani is suffering herself; the relentless harassment by these security police “dogs”.

  11. ABC:No social media revolution for Cuba-By Michael Brissenden

    A strange thing happened to me the other week. While the so called Facebook revolution was sweeping through Egypt I found myself in an almost completely net free zone, a rare black hole on the Facebook map: Cuba.

    There might be some debate about whether Mubarak was toppled by the net nerds of Cairo or not – after all he did shut the whole thing down after a while – but what seems clear is that social media certainly helped get the ball rolling. What’s also clear is that the old comrades in their battle fatigues in Havana have nothing to fear from any like-minded, touch screen freedom fighters. For most people in Cuba even the mobile phone is pretty much out of reach. Access to the internet is reserved for the ruling elite, those in favour with the regime or the relatively wealthy – which is usually the same group.

    Here’s how it works for most of the rest of the population.

    The average wage is about $20 per month, so there’s not a lot of room for discretionary spending on communications. A mobile call casts 35 cents to make and 35 cents to receive. And the mobile phone in Cuba is simply that: there’s no mobile broadband or fancy broadband network, internet access is restricted to a clunky old dial-up service that most people can only access at certain times at certain post offices for anywhere between $2 and $5 an hour.

    This has its redeeming features of course. It’s like stepping back into the 1980s. On the Cuban streets people don’t spend their entire time walking around staring into their mobiles. You can still have a conversation, indeed a whole meal, without your companion disengaging to tweet or to check the latest update from their real friends on Facebook.

    Very few people here are in a position to afford an online presence and those that are are wary of giving any would-be revolutionary free rein in cyberspace. As we’ve seen, things can get out of hand pretty quickly for autocratic regimes if they let that one loose. The ruling party to be keen to keep the focus on the textbook teachings of dialectical materialism rather than allow access to that sort of unfettered digital anarchy.

    That’s not to say they don’t appreciate its virtues. Mariella Castro, the daughter of the Cuban leader Raul Castro, spent a good deal of time in a interview I did with her for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent telling me how much she admired Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. It was hard to disagree with her assertion that “WikiLeaks has paved a new path in the transparency of international diplomacy”. The paradox of the situation in her own country flashed by without comment.

    Of course part of the reason why the digital age has passed Cuba by has been the refusal of the US to allow to the fibre optic cables in the Caribbean. In the next few months though, an underwater cable rolled out all the way from Venezuela will finally bring broadband to the island. But apart from giving those that already have access to the net a faster service no-one expects anything much to change in the short term.

    According to the government-controlled daily newspaper Granma, Cuban officials have already made it clear that while broadband may mean a higher quality communication it will not necessarily bring “broader” communication.

    Viva la revolucion.

    Michael Brissenden is the ABC’s Washington correspondent.

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