‘I Met Him Chatting’

Alfredo Fernandez

Rainbow over Tarara beach. Photo: Angel Yu

“I met him chatting,” is an expression one hears all the time in Cuba these days.

It’s difficult to know the number of people who — desperate to make a decent living as soon as they can — make use of our limited Internet access to establish a “romantic” relationship with a foreigner.  In this way they can hope to obtain the rights and material benefits that would be impossible through working here on the island.

To travel to another country, an exit visa is required from the Cuban government.  But even if one is able to obtain this permission, the question remains as to how they’re going to pay the plane ticket to the destination country?

The foreigner becomes the solution

In the face of this challenging situation, the little-suspecting “yuma” (foreigner) becomes the problem’s solution.  They become the bearer of human rights denied the average Cuban.

Whenever marriage with a foreigner is accomplished, doors to real opportunities fly open.  In this way the beneficiary of love across the sea can obtain a “PRE” (short for Permit for Residence in the Exterior).  A friend of mine jokes that a “PRE” is the abbreviation for a “premio” (English: a prize).

The PRE allows the person who possesses it to reside overseas without losing their rights to any property here on the island during their time abroad.  They’re also able to return to Cuba when they want and stay as long as they wish.

Chatting with a foreigner to establish a relationship that leads to marriage — the means of freeing oneself from the “no rights” that we experience day after day here in Cuba — is now the aim of many people.

But where can a Cuban chat?

The most common place is on the job, particularly when one’s supervisor heads off for one of their frequent “very important” morning meetings.  Other alternatives include hotels with Internet access and private homes in which people have set up “Internet Cafés” (obviously illegal), which are much cheaper than hotels but only for people who the homeowners know.

Chatting is perhaps the most widely used bait in Cuba today when it comes to “hooking a yuma.”  It’s an expeditious path to many people’s goal, and undoubtedly a more dignified one.