Alexei Gámez: “Before Wifi This Was a Dead Town” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 February 2017– Surrounded by cables
and circuits Alexei Gámez has spent his life. From an early age he
became passionate about technology despite growing up amidst the rigors
of the Special Period. At age ten, he had a computer, “the kind that
connected to TVs,” he recalls with a mixture of pride and irony. At that
time he did not imagine that the screens and the keyboards would help to
awaken in him a civic conscience.
At the beginning of this month, the name of this young man of 35 years,
resident in Jagüey Grande, appeared in the digital media. Police broke
into his house and after a meticulous search took the devices for
wireless connection that Gámez counted among his most valuable
treasures. The trigger was a Youtube channel where he teaches Cubans how
to set up a wifi network with routers and NanoStations.
At that moment he crossed the line. In a country where thousands of
users are plugged into wireless networks every day, the authorities turn
a blind eye most of the time because of the inability to control the
phenomenon. But it is one thing to connect to SNet, the largest of these
communities, and another to say publicly that you do so and, in
addition, to teach others how to create their own virtual web.
When the eyes of the cyber-cops focused on him, it carried no weight
that at the age of 19 he had been one of a contingent of computer
scientists, nor that he became the administrator of the Banco Popular de
Ahorro network in Matanzas. After the raid on his home, an officer
warned him that the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) accused
him of “illegal economic activity,” although he was never paid a penny
to distribute his knowledge.
He entered the world of politics at full speed and now says, with
determination, he will be involved in it “until my last day
Since then, Gámez can not leave town without asking permission, but
immobilizing a computer expert is like trying to hold back the sea.
Technology has also connected him with a new life. A few years ago he
obtained one of those USB memories loaded with audiovisual content that
circulate from hand to hand. Thus he met Eliécer Ávila, leader of the
Somos+ (We Are More) Movement. “That was the beginning of a friendship
that lasts until today,” says Gamez.
However, technology remains his main passion. “By not having access to
mass media such as radio and television, because they are state media
and only represent the Communist Party, we try to spread our message
through a USB drive, a DVD or in the Weekly Packet,” he told this newspaper.
Computers, smartphones and tablets “have given us the opportunity to get
closer to people and convey our message of how we think and how we want
things to be in the future,” he explains.
For Gámez the opening of Wi-Fi zones in squares and parks of the country
is still far from an efficient service. “The bandwidth is very
restricted” and “clearly they have it very controlled.” With his
knowledge, he intuits that navigation through Nauta service could be a
more successful experience for customers, if the state
telecommunications company ETECSA, that operates it, proposed it.
“I rely on the experience of whose of us who have a wireless network at
the municipal level, with approximately 200 people connected and working
at high speed.” Gámez says he can “watch a film” from his house even
though its streaming on a computer elsewhere. “We do that with equipment
of lower power” than those of the state monopoly.
Jagüey Grande Park is the center of the life of the municipality and the
little recreation available to the residents. “When a few people get
together, that’s as far as the Nauta connection goes,” complains the
However, he believes that the installation of a Wi-Fi zone has
significantly changed the life of the area. “Before wifi this was a dead
town, there was nowhere to go,” he recalls. “On weekends there were
several nightclubs, one for children, one for young people and one
Gámez played in that park as a child and evokes the times he spent amid
its trees and benches. But with the passing of years, “the park was
dying and was always dark,” he laments. “After the coming of the
internet it’s full all the time and for the young people it’s a fixed
meeting point,” he says with relief.
Like many of these netizens, Alexei Gámez manages to slip through the
bars of control every day thanks to wireless networks. He does it like a
mischievous child who clings to the tail of a kite called “technology.”
*Translator’s note: Discotemba = a place that plays older music for an
Source: Alexei Gámez: “Before Wifi This Was a Dead Town” / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar – Translating Cuba –