Family, Friendship and Emigration

Alfredo Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES – Last year was especially hard for me… I lost three people I hold extremely dear and it drove home just how finite our lives are, and that every moment is special.

In June last year, my only sister passed away and she was still young, only 52 years old, but she couldn’t beat rheumatoid arthritis that was the result of poor nutrition during the Special Period.

My mother passed away five months later, from a heart attack. I was only able to travel back to Cuba a month after my mother’s death. The day after I arrived in Cuba, I went to greet my dear friend Lino Betancourt, who I hadn’t seen in almost three years.

After greeting each other, we talked like we had just seen each other the day before; that’s the real magic of friendship. We talked about life, our respective plans, we also talked about Felix B. Caignet, Carlos Gardel and Miguel Matamoros.

I was only with Lino for a couple of hours, but it felt like just a couple of minutes, because we were having a good time like we always did. The following day, I traveled to Santiago to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my father. I promised Lino I’d come back in January and spend a couple of days at his.

But life is normally a lot grander than any of our plans and when I reached Santiago de Cuba, my father told me the news that Lino had passed away the day before. Thinking that the loss of my sister and mother was a bit excessive on Fate’s part, I had to compose myself, in a couple of seconds, to accept that one of my best friends had left this world.

By a whim of Fate, I ended up being the last one of his friends to see him alive, as if he had been waiting for me all this time so he could say goodbye.

The most painful thing about emigrating (and trust me this decision implies plenty of painful things) is the fact that you can’t bury your dead. You answer the phone and a call from Cuba delivers you the news: “Alfred, sorry but I have to give you some bad news, … has just passed away” and suddenly you feel this dreadful mix of impotence and sadness that tears you up inside, that ends up making you question not only whether you made the right decision to go somewhere far from your loved ones, but also what the meaning of life is, or better yet, whether it’s worth being far from the people who love you unconditionally?

I don’t normally regret my decisions, in fact, I don’t regret leaving Cuba, a place stuck in time, where nothing changes, unless it’s for the worst. But there are some things; situations, people, moments that seem to be made for you to share with your closest and dearest, which make their way into your subconscious and come back to life when you are in your country, with your family and friends, as if by magic.

According to Jorge Luis Borges, “a person doesn’t miss places, but moments”, leading him to believe that it was inaccurate for people to want to go back to a place where they were once happy, something which was impossible in his opinion, as you can only be happy in a certain moment of time, never in a place.

God bless anyone who corresponds to my sister’s, mother’s and Lino’s time on that island, that has almost been lost forever in time for me.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

7 thoughts on “Family, Friendship and Emigration

  • July 7, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    The great Celia Cruz was not able to go to her mother funeral because the dictatorship and his comandante didn’t allow her to go. It happens to so many Cubans only 90 miles away from home and not able to go to loves one because a man stole a whole country and turned into his own private ranch where he has the absolutely control even the lives of its citizens. Shame for whoever supports this horrible regime.

  • July 5, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Loved ones have died in Cuba and I have been unable to be there.
    When I lived in Cuba my beloved Grandmother died in England and I was unable to get there.
    When one travels away from home one sees a lot but one misses a lot.
    The alternative would be to stay in the old hometown an entire lifetime.
    We come from the earth, we go back to the earth.
    No politics or science or dreams will change this. We live, we gain, we lose and then we carry on…………
    Alfredo, condolences for your losses.
    Live well for them.
    Keep your chin up.

  • July 5, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I emigrated to The USA in 1962. This year, 2019 in August I will have lived here a mere 56 years. In China it is said that ‘ everything born also dies.’ That not only includes us humans but also the whole planet, our Sun, even our Galaxy. Our time here on Earth planet is but a flash in the pan. Nevertheless it hurts when we lose dear ones. My sympathies to you for your lost.

  • July 4, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    I was bought here in 1980 both of my parents
    Passed away. I missed my childhood days in Cuba.

  • July 3, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Alfredo. Distance is difficult.

  • July 3, 2019 at 10:48 am

    I can’t imagine how those Cubans who left Cuba “illegally” many years ago and were therefore not allowed to return to Cuba until recently. These Cubans were not able to attend funerals, visit newborns or care for ailing families nor friends. How terribly cruel the Castros were to deny travel to Cubans.

  • July 3, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Chip implant?

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