Cuba: Communication Blackout

As we went up the elevator, Bill and I joked about watching the Kentucky vs. Kansas game on ESPN. Neither of us thought this would be possible since the Cuban government strictly monitors the information going in and out of the country. Experiencing this luxury seemed impossible.

When I walked into my hotel room, I turned on the TV out of curiosity to see what channels I had to pick from. Shockingly, ESPN was a choice! And it was in English!

The next day, I asked one of my new friends how we were able to watch US channels in Cuba. She was quick to state that these channels were only available at hotels or resorts. This was a gesture by the Cuban government to seem more open to tourism. The average Cuban will never be able to see these channels, not even the hotel maids who risk losing their job if they turn on the TV.

The only TV stations that most Cubans will ever see are those ran by the government. They use their monopolistic influence to inform the people only when it is in the best interest of the government. The same is true of newspapers and other forms of communication. Cubans are only able to see what the government says is good.

When I travel, I am accustomed to not having internet in the more remote locations. In Cuba, it does not matter where you are, internet is very rarely an option. The entire time I was in Cuba, I saw 2 places where internet access was available, and both were dial-up speeds reminiscent of the 1990's.

Cell service is non existent as well. You can use Cuban phones, but American cell phones will not work at all.

Oddly enough, I loved having a communication blackout from the rest of the world (except for ESPN of course. Seriously, who can go for even a day without SportsCenter?). It allowed for time of relaxation and my eyes enjoyed not staring at a screen for hours each day. For some, not having constant contact seems like a curse. I like to see it as an opportunity to refocus and observe how much can be accomplished in a day even without the aid of technology.

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK