When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

CLARIN

WiFi-Free In Old Havana, A Perfect Post-Modern Getaway

It's taken a few days to accept, but Cuba's less-than-ideal WiFi situation may be a blessing in disguise for one Argentine visitor.

Some hotels in La Havana sell Wifi cards for tourists
Some hotels in La Havana sell Wifi cards for tourists
Diana Pazos

-Essay-

HAVANA — It is a June night in Old Havana, with a waning moon and temperatures a steamy 29 °C. A few meters from Obispo, a shopping street, two Japanese tourists are crouching at the entrance of a palatial building turned five-star hotel, staring at their smartphones.

Next comes a man from Buenos Aires, desperate to check his e-mail, add a couple of "likes' to his Facebook page and send someone a WhatsApp to say how much he is enjoying his holidays in Havana. He arrives all sweaty from another luxury hotel. The Argentine wasn't a guest there either, so wasn't allowed into the lobby to check his mail. But in this hotel, anyone can bring a laptop or phone to surf the web, albeit only until 10 p.m., when the lobby closes to non-guests. It's after 10, so like the Japanese tourist, he does his surfing on the sidewalk.

Back in Argentina he uses a desktop computer for his Internet needs and criticizes people who are married to their smartphones. Now, though, he's sitting in front of this Havana hotel and staring at a screen without taking note of the two Cubans playing chess on the tree-lined Paseo del Prado. He doesn't hear the sound of that classic song "Dos Gardenias," with its finely tuned voices, playing somewhere nearby. Nor has he noticed the driver of a Fiat 125 taxi and his USB packed full of reggaeton music.

The man won't go into the bar across the way that offers salsa classes. He won't sip a guarapo a kind of cane sugar squash on San Francisco de Asís square. And he won't find out that the antiques and used books market on the Plaza de Armas has now moved closer to the port, where the cruise ships arrive.

The Argentine does know, however, that in Havana — like in Spain — they call WiFi "güifi." He has figured out too that tourists can connect in some of the expensive hotels of the colonial district after buying an ETECSA (the state telecommunications firm) card. It shows a user ID consisting of 12 numbers and another, difficult-to-remember number code, revealed when you scratch the card. The connection lasts an hour, is slow and sometimes breaks down.

By Sunday he might even wean himself off WhatsApp.

Some of the hotels sell the WiFi cards. Otherwise, getting one involves waiting in long lines at the state telephone company. But maybe there's a benefit to all that asking around for WiFi. It slows things down a bit. For the Argentine man, it offers a taste of life at an entirely different pace.

Maybe by Monday those oh-so-important tweets stop mattering as much. By Wednesday he might care bit less about what his friends think on Facebook. Perhaps on Friday he'll even be able to eat a meal without loading a picture of it onto Instagram. By Sunday he might even wean himself off WhatsApp.

With a little luck, his two-week holiday might — by the second week — actually become a vacation. Forget about WiFi for a while, and he just might make a meaningful connection with Havana.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Coronavirus

Will China's Zero COVID Ever End?

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. But if the Chinese economy continues to suffer, Xi Jinping may have no choice but to second guess himself.

COVID testing in Guiyang, China

Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA
Deng Yuwen

The tragic bus accident in Guiyang last month — in which 27 people being sent to quarantine were killed — was one of the worst examples of collateral damage since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China nearly three years ago. While the crash can ultimately be traced back to bad government policy, the local authorities did not register it as a Zero COVID related casualty. It was, for them, a simple traffic accident.

The officials in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, of course, had no alternative. Drawing a link between the deadly crash and the strict policy of Zero COVID, touted by President Xi Jinping, would have revealed the absurdity of the government's choices.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ