Like most Cuban families, a part of mine (in which I count myself) is scattered beyond the seas. Some settled in the United States years ago; others are in Spain; and I, for more than a decade desiring Argentina. But most of them are still on the island, divided between my native Holguín and my adoptive Havana.
But for a few years, geographical distances have been shortened daily thanks to the reunion in a WhatsApp family group, under the matriarchical name of “Campism Las Cabrera”.
We share every day from the most sublime and profound topics to the most absurd and mundane. Sometimes, while I am reading the messages on my cell phone screen, it is as if I were transported to the portal of the Caletones house, that little coastal town in the north of Holguín where we have spent our summers for decades and where, very close to the sea, we treasure the fondest family memories. Not in vain is the photo that identifies the group in the application.
My WhatsApp family group is similar to those of other Cuban families. These virtual cells have become a valuable sociological reference of these times. In group conversations, scholars have a vast field to outline some features of the Cuban family of the present.
It is very possible that in the family x-ray that follows, whoever reads can find his aunt, uncle, sister or mother.
Aunt Vicky is a specialist in sharing memes. Aunt Alicia sends affectionate messages and never forgets her birthdays. My mom is a fan of cute missives, self-help tips, and love chains filled with hearts and care bears. She takes advantage of the wait in the “whatever” queues to send her messages.
The list goes on with a fucking guy like Bartolito, who plays the cool of life until Ileana, his wife, arrives and puts the points in front of everyone. Another uncle, Mayito, is more measured and analytical. Uncle Jorge doesn’t mince words and when he goes off the deep end he doesn’t leave anyone without thinking. Aunt Lisette is pure love. Aunt Taira entrusts us with her religious prayers the well-being and calm for all.
Cousins Nery, Neldi, Ruth and Adriana bring a bit of everything with youthful freshness. My brother Alex adds flavor with jokes or “giving leather” to whatever. And me? I moderate a bit and send photos of everyone that I am taking from the trunk of memories.
The virtual and vital group is not only an immediate closeness to my affections, as well as to another band of Cuban friends also spread throughout the world with whom I regularly meet on WhatsApp.
The infinite lines of text, photos and gifs make up a window through which I look at the Cuban reality. 2022 was a distressing year. “Things are not hard, they are very hard,” my mother comments from Havana.
The Cuban economy has not yet taken off. Ordering ended up being disorder. Meanwhile, those who should be held accountable and solve the crisis, instead ask for more confidence and resistance.
The year that is leaving will be remembered, among other things, for the return of blackouts. The long power outages kept the family group red hot. It was the hottest topic. More than that of queues, food, shortages, inflation or the novel on duty.
The power cuts, perhaps, were the only thing missing to feel that the Cuban time machine had gone back a couple of decades. Not long ago they began to be fewer, and a few weeks ago they apparently stopped; but the topic in the family chat is not exhausted.
Yesterday, while we were talking in the group about the preparations for the end of the year, my aunt Marinita confessed that she had frozen for a long time “a few pounds of pork, some bulk beer knobs and a couple of bottles of sparkle” and train”. She with each blackout she prayed that she did not spoil the meat. She several times she was about to thaw, but she held on. “So for this 31 as it is we put together the party,” released the family doctor, as if revealing the riot of gold in her secret cave.
My uncle Mayito, who is an electrical engineer, says that for the first minutes of 2023, when he hugs each neighbor, he will wish them “health and many, many kilowatts.”
In a few hours, when 2023 arrives, we will reconnect on WhatsApp as a family. Surely this will happen with many other Cuban families. At that time hinge between the sunset of one year and the dawn of another; in that tiny but intense moment in which memories and the faces of loved ones flash by like a flash, those who are no longer there and those who are; I will only ask for mine and other Cubans that the new year come less fucked up and more enlightened. We deserve good things. Health, good life and… many kilowatts!