Jaza's World Trip

Cabinas ain't just for tourists

In Western countries, we're accustomed to Internet cafés being overpriced, limited to the city centre (and other commercial hubs), and really only used by tourists. This is because the majority of people that need it in these countries, have it installed in their homes, so there's simply no demand from the locals. But here in Peru, very few people can afford a PC or an Internet connection at home; and so cabinas (Internet cafés) have become a way of life here. They aren't around because of the tourists: they're around for everyone.

As with any city anywhere in the world, there are way more cabinas in the centre of Cusco than in the suburbs. But what that means is that every 2nd shop is a cabina in the city centre, while only every 4th or 5th shop is a cabina in the suburbs. Seriously, they really are very common and very popular all over. And they're cheap: s/1 per hour. Local price, not tourist price.

Out where I'm living now with my host family, in Barrio Magisterio, I'm the only gringo in the cabinas. It's all locals. Local relatives emailing family in other cities. Local businessmen checking the news and typing documents. And lots of local kids, playing solo or LAN games, at all the cabinas that advertise "juegos en red" (lit: "network games"). The kids in particular love the cabinas — it's the new Timezone video arcade around here. Some of the cabinas even advertise having PS2 available.

Internet here in the Latin world is available to all, just as it is in the West. But as with other things — such as telephone calls, TV, and even (in some places) hot water — it's available in a very different style. It's public, and it's shared. It matches the culture here — opposite to the Western culture — where community and mass sharing are more prevalent than individuality and masses of personal possessions. It has its disadvantages, but I think it's nice, as well as practical. And it's a great service, because without the cabinas, the people here wouldn't have Internet access at all, and they wouldn't be a part of the brave new digital 21st century.