Friday, July 19, 2013

Cuba Si, Google No

“The International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency for information and communications technology, puts the number of broadband subscriptions in Cuba at 0.04 per 100 inhabitants, or about one in 2,500. That is considered lower than in Haiti and Sudan, two places that are not considered the least bit tech friendly,” wrote Victoria Burnett in a Times piece, “Salons or Not, Cyberspace Is Still a Distant Place for Most Cubans,” (NYT, 7/9/13). Everyone has had their Casablanca fantasy. If you are a guy, you're Rick Blaine, the hardened ex-pat. If you’re a gal you’re Ilsa Lund, the beautiful femme fatale, torn between devotion to the cause and passion for the man she loves. If you’re transgender you’re a mixture of the two. The problem is that the fantasy is always broken up by an e-mail coming through on your iphone, even if you’re in Casablanca itself. It’s you’re dentist reminding you about your upcoming prophylactic treatment, your wife wondering where you are and why you haven’t returned to the hotel or actually your internet provider asking you to complete a brief survey about a new app. What better place to have your Casablanca moment than in Havana where there are not likely to be a lot of WiFi hot spots or even decent cell phone reception to put you back in texting purgatory! And they’ll be no problem finding anyone of a number of broken down, but moody cafes that fit the bill. Even though it’s become a bit of a tourist spot, there’s La Bodeguita del Medio where Hemingway hung out, for starters. One of the problems of modern life is that you can’t escape it. Everywhere is exactly the same. No matter the destination, you’ll inevitably suffer from Bill Murray’s predicament in Groundhog Day. If you think you’re suffering from déjà vu, you’re definitely right since you’ve already seen whatever it is you’re looking at: Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald’s, KFC, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter. They’re everywhere. Remember back forty years ago when you went to Europe and really felt like you were going somewhere, when it was difficult and expensive to call home and when you trekked to American Express to get your mail. If you’re looking for that far away feeling, the sense that you have really gone somewhere rather than traveling  the moebius strip of modern life, Cuba still fits the bill and it’s probably a helluva a lot safer than Haiti or the Sudan.

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