No More Blackouts? / Cubanet, Gladys Linares
Posted on April 30, 2015
The blackouts occur very frequently “at the time of the water,” in those
4 or 5 hours on alternate days that the liquid arrives at our houses
“If water and electricity have the same owner, why do they turn off my
power when I need it most?”
Cubanet.org, Gladys Linares, Havana, 28 April 2015 – The word “blackout”
was eliminated by the Electric Company. Nevertheless, blackouts
continue, managed, disguised, masked with terms like free channel,
breakdown, maintenance, pole change, broken cables, etc., causing a
thousand and one miseries among the population.
For Andres, a self-employed man who sells pizzas, spaghetti and
smoothies in Lawton, the blackouts, he says, have turned into a
nightmare. He says that recently he cannot sell a smoothie because the
fruit pulp was spoiled in a blackout, and as his oven is electric, when
the lights go out he cannot make pizzas, either.
Several times a week the same hell confronts those who are obligated to
cook with electricity; without it there is no food. There are those who
solve the problem with a cylinder of gas (almost always bought on the
black market because few have the 500 pesos necessary for getting a
contract for the unrationed gas canisters).
The Island stopped in time
The first electric plant was established in Cuba in 1889 (in Cardenas),
only seven years after New York’s first electric plant was inaugurated.
For the republic’s half century, few complained about blackouts. But
after 1959, the Cuban electric system did not escape the disaster, and
as in so many spheres of our calamitous economy, it was at the point of
In the Tribune of Havana newspaper of August 15, 2010, the program’s
chief engineer, Pedro Felipe de las Casas, declared that he had carried
out 75 percent of the necessary improvements in order to offer a high
quality service to the capital’s clients, and among those works he
mentioned were: rush changes, increased transformer capacity,
improvements in street lighting – though not in the outlying
neighborhoods – and to conclude he said, “So far 3,109 low voltage areas
have been eliminated which stands out as one of the results most noticed
by the people.”
In spite of the government’s triumphant propaganda about energy
efficiency, frequent fluctuations in voltage continue which damage
appliances, and in the neighborhoods we spend long hours without
The pruning of trees that damage lines that hang from poles is only
carried out in a marathon manner in the face of an imminent cyclone. The
branches are another of the frequent cause of electric service
interruption or of accidents. On Friday, April 10 in the suburb of Abel
Santamaria, a 12-year old boy climbed a tree to knock down mangoes and
was electrocuted by a line that passed through the branches.
The lights go out when the water arrives
The blackout happens very frequently at the “water time,” that is to
say, in those 4 or 5 hours in which on alternate days the vital liquid
arrives at our houses. When this happens, you can hear the curses of
the neighbors who had washing machines going (although many have to wash
by hand). Worse occurs in the case of multi-family buildings or other
multi-story houses: without electricity the motors don’t start, and
without motors to run the pumps, the water does not get to them.
For these reasons, more than a few are outraged, and some wonder: if in
48 hours we only have water for 5 hours, maybe 6, generally 4 hours, if
it is true that they turn off the electricity to make repairs, if the
water and the electricity are from the same owner: Why do they have to
take my power when I need it most? Is it that you cannot make the
repair in the other 40 hours?
On one of these days that corresponded to the arrival of the water, an
affected neighbor, who asked me not to mention her name, called 18888
and asked the operator how long was the blackout was going to be. She
countered her: “In Cuba there are no blackouts.”
On another occasion another neighbor called to find out, and they told
him that a pole at 16th and Conception (Lawton) had caught fire. To
verify it, he went out for a spin on his bicycle in the area but did not
manage to find the supposed incident.
Julia Cecilia Ramos, an old lady who receives a monthly pension of 240
pesos (less than US$10), was due her payment on March 26. She arrived
at the CADECA closest to her house, and the store was closed for lack of
electricity. She continued to the bank, and there found the same
situation. The old woman told me that she decided to return to her
house, “because the blackouts in Cuba, although they no longer exist,
they last hours.”
About the author
Gladys Linares. Cienfuegos, 1942. School teacher. She worked as a
geography teacher and a principal in different schools for 32 years.
She joined the Human Rights Movement at the end of 1990 through the
Women’s Humanitarian Front organization. She actively participated in
the Cuban Council and the Varela Project. Her chronicles reflect the
daily life of the people.
Translated by MLK
Source: No More Blackouts? / Cubanet, Gladys Linares | Translating Cuba