Living with Constant Blackouts: A Look at Cuban Life
Every day, the people of Cuba face the challenge of power outages and blackouts, disrupting their lives and forcing the need to get creative with solutions. Recent blackouts have left seven of the country’s fifteen provinces, including Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, without power. The state company Unión Eléctrica (UNE) of Cuba reported that nation-wide restoration would happen by 11pm local time after a five hour disconnection due to a “failure” in some high voltage lines.
The cause of the failure was due to a fire in a rural area, but the Cuba energy system has been in a precarious situation for some time due to lack of investments in the national energy system and the lack of fuel for the plants. This in addition to the economic crisis from the confluence of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions, and errors in national monetary policy has caused blackouts to be daily and prolonged, sometimes affecting up to 40% of the country.
The effects of the power outages in Cuba can be seen in the lifestyles of the people which have had to come up with unique solutions to everyday life tasks. For instance, due to the electric plates being unable to function, many people have had to switch to cooking with wood or charcoal. In order to get a pedicure or see while doing hair, Cuban manicurists and hair stylists have had to make use of mobile phones as makeshift flashlights. Furthermore, birthday parties are having to be powered by oil-powered generators and in Baracoa, a city of 80,000 people, the electricity is rationed so one half of the city has to use the other for light.
Power outages are not just disruptive, but also expensive the Cuban government has recognized. In addition to the economic cost, the blackouts generate social discontent, as was evidenced last year after hurricane Ian when the largest number of protests took place in Cuba.
Undoubtedly, Cuba faces an unprecedented crisis and for the people, life carries on with an extra twist. Even in darkness, the Cuban people forge ahead through challenging times, and have created ingenious ways of carrying on with their lives in spite of being left in complete darkness.