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Cuba's Energy Revolution Comes to My Neighborhood... and Then Leaves Again

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2012-02-29-base_grupo_electrogeno.jpg

The base the neighbors themselves built for the generation. Photo: Yoani Sanchez

It arrived in March 2006, in a few days before April launched its frenetic downpours against us. It came in a truck, immaculately new, brilliantly useful. It was our electric plant, our own generator, that would run the elevator and the hall lights when the blackouts cast their shadows over our area. We were saved. The Energy Revolution benefited us with this device, shaped like a decommissioned locomotive. Reinforcing its railroad-like appearance, its imposing structure culminated in a chimney, from which we would never see even a puff of smoke.

That May Day, Fidel Castro announced in the Plaza that all the buildings in the area already had their own devices for electricity self-sufficiency. "Our plant," however, had still not produced a single kilowatt, it hadn't hit a home run even once. In the time that passed between the arrival of this object and the public announcement, it had created three jobs to watch over it and refill its fuel. The employees were placed on rotating shifts, although at first there was nothing to do other than to observe our beautiful "light machine." Several attempts were made to fire it up, but it never worked well. Perhaps we hadn't installed it correctly, maybe it needed more gas, maybe...

A few weeks passed, from the time it was one more number on the list in the speech by the Maximum Leader. The cement base the neighbors built to hold it had become a bench where the kids would sit. The three employees who looked after it enjoyed a few more months of their salary without any work to do, until even those positions were eliminated. The power plant - according to what the truck driver who came to get it said -- was relocated to a school for Latin American students. But not before promising us that the one that was really ours -- larger and with greater capacity -- would arrive in a few days.

It's been six years. People talk about that generator as if they were mentioning a beloved ghost that had crossed their path. But others, the most entertaining, joke and shout from balcony to balcony, "Hey... I think they're coming now with the generator, our generator."

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.

Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, can be ordered here.