HAVANA TIMES — I arrived at the Lago Agrio bus terminal in the Ecuadorian Amazon, worried because I hadn’t purchased a ticket to Quito in advance. Though I’d been told this wasn’t necessary, no sooner have I set foot in one than I think I’m going to be stuck there for hours, even days. Immediately, however, I realized my apprehensions are eminently Cuban in nature.
The bus to Quito is about to leave and there are plenty of free seats. I am told that, if I want to, I can also wait for the next bus, scheduled to leave in half an hour.
Inside the coach, I ask the gentleman sitting beside me at what time the guagua arrives in Quito. He asks me what I understand with “guagua”. I tell him it means “bus”, in Cuba. He smiles and explains that, in Ecuador, a “guagua” is a little girl.
I tell him about where I come from. The fellow, an oil industry engineer with a monthly salary of over 2,000 dollars, doesn’t believe me when I tell him what life is like in Cuba, saying, as way of a conclusion: “let’s hope Correa turns into a Fidel Castro.”
The trip to Quito involves ascending to an altitude of 2,800 meters above sea level, up winding roads with breathtaking views, so it was easy to direct my attention to something other than this gentleman, who longed for such a future for his country.
With my eyes fixed on the beautiful summits and bottomless precipices of the Andes mountain range, I asked myself, again and again, how someone could be made to question something that had become as deeply-rooted as a myth.
In Ecuador, I have conversed with people of different nationalities who have never set foot in Cuba but who believe they know the island better than I do, people who constantly refute everything I tell them about the country, and everything I claim to have experienced there. To them, I am at best exaggerating things and, at worst, lying.
How do you destroy a legend? When did the process which began in Cuba in 1959 acquire the status of a myth? It is next to impossible to describe Cuban reality today without evoking strong criticisms, from people who would not tolerate a brief day of the hardships we Cubans endure constantly but who, for some reason, have no shortage of arguments to justify the fact we do not have the right to access the Internet freely, travel outside the country for as long as we want to without losing our properties or that, residing abroad, we should be denied the right to invest in Cuba.
There are people who can justify this and much more, such as the abuses against dissidents that are perpetrated in Cuba with impunity. Most of the people I’ve spoken to are staunch opponents of their governments, all of which were democratically elected.
The bus pierces through a cold, drizzly fog as it enters Quito, a city whose architecture seems elevated by its mountain setting, a city which, today, ought not to be envious of Havana in the least.
The gentleman next to me gets up before I do and says goodbye. His farewell is jovial – I never did refute his opinion. I, on the other hand, bid my farewell with the sincere wish that, for his own good, his “dream” never becomes reality.