By Glenda Boza Ibarra (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – There is no such thing as a water, food spoils, children cry; people on the streets appear to be zombies, sad, silent, hopeless. It is a portrait of today’s Cuba.
“Exceptional situation” is the new term that the federal government invented to call the huge blackout that has endured on the island since September twenty seventh and has brought many to the brink of despair.
With out a real idea of when the ordeal will end, messages on social networks like WhatsApp, Messenger and Telegram, share testimonies and catharsis on the very difficult moment individuals are living.
The highest concern of Cubans after the continual hours of blackout is food. The anxiety is logical. For a very long time now it has been very difficult to access food, not only due to scarcity, but in addition due to high prices. Some basics are only available in dollar-priced stores via MLC cards, a currency wherein almost nobody receives at work.
For some it has not been enough to go away the refrigerator closed. In lots of places “it leaks”. They’ve given up drinking cold water to chill off from the warmth to take care of the lower temperature for so long as possible to preserve food.
“In my house we’re two elderly people, the little food that we should buy at high prices has defrosted and we consistently boil the milk, which cost us a lot. What can we do if we don’t even have anything to cook on because a sack of charcoal costs 500 pesos? I even have been through many difficult times, but none like this one,” says Virgina Maria, a resident of Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, after a day without electricity.
Testimonies like hers are common and constant. Those that live with children, the elderly or sick individuals are those who’ve suffered essentially the most from the prolonged blackout that also doesn’t have a transparent solution date. And remember, there have been already hours long every day blackouts in most places before the whole outage.
Lianet, a 28-year-old widowed mother living in Jagüey Grande, comments desperately that she doesn’t know what to feed her children and her sick mother. “You’ll be able to’t even go to a store to purchase something such as you used to. Without electricity they don’t open and, on top of that, without MLC you possibly can’t buy either”. She says that she lives “day-to-day” and her work requires electricity. “We’re five and the State only pays me 2,258 pesos (Less that 20 USD a month) and besides, I’m renting. And no one cares!”
In Sierra de Cubitas, Barbara Trimiño’s family needed to cook all of the food they kept within the freezer. They ended up sharing it with their neighbors. “It was going to spoil, and it was higher to provide it to others than to observe go off what had cost us so many hours in lines and sacrifice,” laments Barbara.
The huge blackout that Cuba is experiencing took families of the middle and east of the country by surprise since they weren’t affected by the passage of Hurricane Ian. In most of those provinces, where blackouts were already scheduled every day for 3, 4 or five hours, individuals are used to keeping their refrigerator door closed to preserve low temperatures. Others have found a technique to preserve their food by salting and even frying the meat and leaving it in lard.
Nonetheless, the important “important dishes” which are available on the island are sausages, mincemeat and chicken, foods that can’t be preserved through these methods.
They haven’t suspended classes but…
Ariana Salgado assures she’s going to not take her children to highschool while there’s a blackout at night. They don’t rest; much less her. She will’t send them drained, sleepy. “The teacher has scolded me because they go to sleep on their desks,” she says.
She has decided that in nowadays of blackout she’s going to not go to work either. “I have to be at home in case they activate the facility. And if I’m at work once they activate the electricity, how am I going to charge the equipment, run the refrigerator, prepare food?” she asks.
The reasoning was not her’s alone. As moms and dads have commented on social networks, this Wednesday, September 28, several children were absent from school. Also many teachers.
Nonetheless, some parents prefer to take them to highschool to do house responsibilities in case the electricity is restored. Others have picked them up at noon because without electricity it will not be possible to make lunches.
A supposed announcement of the National Assembly suspending classes went out on social networks and was denied hours later. Nonetheless, some colleges and other institutions which have boarding students have suspended classes until next week. Some, after the passage of the hurricane; others, as a result of the energy contingency.
It will not be new that some parents refuse to send their children to highschool in the event that they had a blackout the night before. Nonetheless, the times that some have lived not only without electricity, but in addition without water, which might’t be pumped, have caused many more to contemplate not taking their children to kindergarten or primary school. Many have also decided to not go to work.
Some take advantage of the disaster, others share
In some parts of the country the electrical service has been temporarily restored. Some necessary entities, resembling hospitals, funeral homes, police stations or bakeries, have continued to operate because of power plants.
The identical has happened in some homes. Sometimes people offer their outlets for others to charge their equipment.
Mayra Ramírez has a backup electric generator that her son brought from the US a number of weeks ago. Her neighbors within the Playa neighborhood of Matanzas, have recharged their phones and lamps there. “I can’t help as many as I’d like since the plant is underpowered, but someone can all the time charge up,” she said.
“Come to my house to cook, boil milk, charge equipment, whatever you wish,” is a message that’s repeated over and all over again in a Facebook group of Cuban moms.
“That is my address, my phone number. Here you have got my humble little house should you need it”, says a mother who understands perfectly well the desperation of oldsters with young children.
In other Telegram, WhatsApp and Facebook groups, individuals are also mobilized to share their electricity with those that need it. They even offer to assist the families of linesmen and other staff of the Electric Company who got here in brigades to the west of the country, or others from the province working within the recovery of the system and who left their homes in the dead of night.
Nonetheless, also, in keeping with reports on social networks, in some places they charge 100 and 200 pesos for the charge of every cellular phone. There’s all the time someone who takes advantage of the misfortune of others.
In several comments to a publication, users criticize that folks are aware of others needing to charge their cellphones, forgetting that for a lot of it’s the only technique to learn, communicate, have light (with the flashlight or the screen), or that children entertain themselves during hours of despair and uncertainty.
Resist and win?
In some municipalities of the country, different circuits had the service restored since Wednesday the twenty eighth. Many others remain turned off and folks wonder the way it is feasible that electricity will not be shared equally. Seeing the neighbor lit up when one other suffers greater than 20 hours of blackout could cause anger, however the culprits are usually not there.
The few responses from the administrators of the UNE (Electric Co.) Facebook page once they allow comment – be certain that this difference is as a result of the incontrovertible fact that “there are prioritized circuits.”
“However the priority —says an area from Las Tunas— is usually a hospital, a factory, a bakery or the home of the governor or the primary secretary [of the Communist Party]”.
Information provided on the federal government media — fragmented, incomplete, sometimes late — doesn’t satisfy most users. The UNE Facebook page, for instance, is updated with relevant information at intervals of seven to nine hours.
On television, to which a big a part of Cuba doesn’t have access as a result of the dearth of electricity, the UNE technicians are unable to supply easy, easily understood information. The radio, in lots of cases, maintains its usual programming of music and radio soap operas.
To make matters worse, the authorities dared to predict the “restoration of the system” in six or eight hours, a time period already far exceeded.
Other social network users show concern concerning the triumphalism within the official media, the dearth of empathy within the face of the difficult situation that was already being experienced for months; the non in-person appearance live of the important authorities to clarify intimately and without detours the present situation and its possible solutions or, even, to supply apologies. They are saying “the causes are being investigated”, but rarely are those responsible made known.
Within the provinces of Las Tunas and Holguín, pots-and-pan protests were reported. It’s the best way residents express their boredom and discontent when there are blackouts.
How for much longer must a people “resist”? In lower than a 12 months they’ve suffered sustained inflation, food and medicine shortages, an explosion in a Havana hotel, a fireplace on the Super Tanker Base, a hurricane that devastated a province, and an unstable energy situation for months that has ended with an enormous blackout of greater than 48 hours and still counting. How way more?