ABIQUIU, N.M. _Traveling to this isolated town in northern New Mexico is like traveling into the distant past.

Surrounded by desert and mountains, Abiquiu is one of the few places in the U.S. where cell-phone service is not available _ in fact, when a cell-phone company advertises that it covers 95 percent of the nation, be sure that part of Abiquiu is counted in the remaining 5 percent, along with, I guess, Alaska’s most remote locales.

The hotel in which I stayed _ by the side of a highway and reportedly the best in the area _ claimed to offer at least a wireless Internet connection in the lobby. But my laptop and recently purchased iPad didn’t even register a single bar’s worth of signal _ that minimal technological marker that serves to assure that yes, you are still connected to the world.

I was soon informed that the hotel’s wireless Internet system had not been operative for the last two weeks, though nobody had complained about it until I arrived.

It quickly became obvious that I live life at a different speed from Abiquiu. I was isolated, and there was nothing I could do about it.

That night I couldn’t say goodnight to my 12-year-old son, by telephone nor e-mail. When I tried to explain a few days later, he couldn’t understand. From the moment he wakes up until he goes back to sleep, his world is filled with texts, tweets, e-mails and online video games. He finds it nearly impossible to comprehend that his own father grew up in a world without computers, cell phones or remote-control devices. He can hardly imagine me watching an old white-and-black TV with a mere three channels that only broadcasted in the evening.

The funny thing is, though I am 40 years older, the two of us discovered the technological revolution at the same time. Most of the time, he is the one who shows me how to do things like download apps or convert my cell phone into a TV, or an alarm clock, or calendar, directory and minicomputer. Soon he will be helping me download Beatles songs through iTunes. We rely equally on technology. That’s why I felt so lost in Abiquiu.

The first hours were the hardest. I was in total denial. “How is it possible that these things won’t work?” I thought, staring helplessly at my cell phone, laptop and iPad. And I actually refused to shut them off, waiting for a miracle that never came.

Afterward, sitting in the hotel lobby as I waited for the cook to prepare supper, my only option for distraction was to browse through two old magazines that both featured cover stories on Lady Gaga. The irony couldn’t be greater: There I was, reading about one of the most popular and eccentric artists in the world as I sat trapped in one of the most isolated places in New Mexico.
After the first 12 hours in Abiquiu, my anxiety over not being able to use technology to contact anybody gradually diminished. By then, however, I did not have the slightest doubt that I was a real tech addict _ that I was addicted to my cell phone and the Internet.

After sleeping immersed in a total silence, I woke up and reached for my telephone in the dark, groping at the night table. Nothing. No signal. So I went for a walk. The scenery was marvelous: the gray rocks of the mountains were silhouetted against a reddish sun, and the air gently opened my lungs. But my heart, defying peace and health, beat like a war drum. It expected a call, an e-mail, some sort of sign that I was not alone.

Finally, I decided that I had two options. The first: Succumb to my anxiety and embrace my tech addiction, breathe deeply and try to enjoy a day disconnected from the world. The second option was to leave.

So I left.

I threw away a rare opportunity to relax _ an opportunity to simply disconnect and see the world in a different light. But the truth is I couldn’t wait to get to Santa Fe, where I could check my messages. And in the car, 12 miles outside of Abiquiu, my iPhone returned to life. In no time it was bursting with tweets and e-mails and messages.

I no longer felt alone. The anxiety I had been carrying over the last 24 hours was lifted. But truthfully, none of the messages on my phone was urgent. Most of the mail I got was basically garbage. Everything could have waited.

And I was left with the very uncomfortable sensation that all this new technology, which is supposed to free us to communicate more effectively and easily, has turned me into another of its slaves.

By Jorge Ramos Avalos
© 2010 Jorge Ramos
(October 18, 2010)

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”