Apple and technological disobedience in Cuba
Despite the isolation and poor access to the Internet, technology is entering Cuba through the cracks and staying, holding onto the creativity of its people tooth and nails.
As several media have reported, the last of them the Apple Insider, the economic blockade and the digital isolation caused by the reduced access to the Internet and digital television have not prevented Apple from entering the island nor that Cubans have a different relationship with cell phones than users in other areas of Latin America.
In Cuba there are iPhones, yes, but that doesn't mean that they are sold in the Apple stores we see in other countries or that people change them the first time they bother or when a new version comes out.
The iPhones that arrive to the island do it through visitors and the numerous images with the bitten apple that are found have a more affective meaning than the intention of demonstrating the belonging of an Apple device, as the Apple Insider says.
Other media, such as SFGate, have reported with astonishment how Cuban technicians have repaired iPhones that the Americans have declared as total losses.
But this is not the result of resistance to the system set up by Fidel Castro. In fact, it is a direct legacy of him. The iPhones they have written about are no exception; they are just another item in the long list of technological items that Cubans open, explore and repair every day, like washing machines whose motors end up powering a fan. And this is something that began in the 1960s.
From 1960, explains Ernesto Oroza, author of the book "Rikimbili. Un estudio sobre la desobediencia tecnológica y algunas formas de reinvención" (Rikimbili: A study on technological disobedience and some forms of reinvention). When the Americans were expelled from Cuba and the engineers on the island emigrated with them, Castro urged all Cubans who remained to appropriate these skills and tools and take advantage of them, even if it was intuitively. This expanded so much that even associations of people specialized in repairing things came into being.
In 1991, with the beginning of the "Special Period" and the fear of an American invasion that did not arrive, the Cuban army began to distribute a book entitled "The Family Book", a kind of Popular Mechanics full of useful information to resist economic suffocation and for survival. It included everything from how to make furniture and toys for children to how to repair household appliances such as blenders or washing machines. Because the appliances and so many other objects on the island were standardized by the regime, the instructions were transparent.
In 1992 the government wanted to find out the result of these efforts and asked the citizens to send them the fruits of their invention. With them they published a second book, called "With our own efforts", where they published everything from ways to repair bicycles to a recipe for "grapefruit steak", in which they took out the bitterness of the fruit to season it like meat, and which became popular.
This form of creativity, inventiveness and reuse of things has endured over time and has been transformed as technology has. Following Oroza's ideas, Cubans are used to seeing the potential of objects and not being blinded by the authority of their science. If it has to be opened and gutted, it is done.
Yes, it is true that Apple has arrived on the island despite the American blockades and that the Cubans have managed to take advantage of the technology in ways that the Americans do not, but to be surprised by this is a way of underestimating them and ignoring the history of the island. If the news is that man bites dog, the news here would not be that Cubans take advantage and reuse iPhones, it would be that the Americans do.