Mary, Customs Needs Your Blessing!

Alfredo Fernández

No, it’s not what all of you are thinking.  What you’re reading above is the English translation of the title of an article by journalist Onnis Tur Pompa in the on-line bulletin of the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops (COCC).

He wrote that essay for the November 9 edition while on pilgrimage to the Virgin del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity) as he traveled through the town of Aduana [which also means “customs office” in Spanish].

But if we want to be fair, other Cuban “aduanas” [customs offices] also need a visit by the Virgin Mary as much or more than this village on the outskirts of the municipality of Palma Soriano in Santiago de Cuba Province.

It turns out that public offices established in Cuban airports to attend to and facilitate the entry into the country of goods and people have, in many cases, become the first obstacle that Cubans residing abroad must overcome when returning to the country.

Upon the arrival of each flight, customs officials select passengers at random in order to inspect their belongings, always looking for possible violations of those always vulnerable local customs regulations.

It doesn’t matter whether you have paid for overweight baggage in the airport of your departure.  Here on Cuban soil you will be required to pay again.  Nor are the customs officers interested in whether the food you brought in was authorized by public health authorities in their country of origin; they will confiscate it just the same.

Ah, but if you’re an expert in the weaknesses of the human being, and particularly in many of our “selfless customs officers” —excuse me, I meant to say “helpless” (in terms of their temptation by material objects)— surely you’ll always have no less than a 50-euro bill in your hand for the moment you find yourself being selected for your bags to be checked.

Holding it and waiting for the moment when the official will not be seen by anyone —something that will surely happen— you offer him the bribe.

Only in this way will the humiliating treatment of these customs officers be ended (please, I don’t mean to confuse those vultures with the residents of the town of Aduana).  Representatives of the Catholics Bishops Conference should, in an act characteristic of those being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, take Our Lady of Charity around the insides of customs offices in Cuban airports.

Isn’t it in customs where Cuban emigrants face their first upsetting experience upon visiting the island?  The gesture by the Bishops could serve to discourage these “false customs officers,” parasites of their profession.

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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.

Alfredo Fernandez has 177 posts and counting. See all posts by Alfredo Fernandez

One thought on “Mary, Customs Needs Your Blessing!

  • Alfredo right on!
    I have described before here somewhere how corrupt Cuban customs officials are.
    This is the first impression anyone gets while traveling in or out of any country.
    I have to say it was a very painful experience for me. I have visited many countries and I have never seen corruption like what I witness at havana’s airport.

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