I don’t have family overseas, but when I used to hear my classmates say that an aunt, father or any other relative was coming here from abroad —generally from the United States— this didn’t catch my attention too much.
It was with time and my being friends with people who had family members in other countries that I began to be a little more interested in what was felt by those who remained here waiting, as well as by those who left.
In Cuba they call the sentiment that touches most emigrants a gorrión (a sparrow), a sense of nostalgia and longing mixed with the feeling of having lost something.
The Cuban is a special type of emigrant. They’re not the kind who journey from one country to another with the sole purpose of trying to improve their economic situation a little.
Cubans who emigrate cannot merely disconnect from the Cuban reality; they can’t begin to adopt the characteristics of their new society, forget their origins and begin again.
They are unable to simply because they’ll always be tied to a family that depends economically on the remittance they can send. In fact, often the family is the main reason for emigrating; pulling them up economically is commonly the main purpose of leaving.
A friend told me that for the economic assistance that his father sends to Cuba to be sufficient and efficiently used, he has to continually mix Granma, the Miami Herald and the Juventud Rebelde newspapers in a blender to figure out how to distribute the scarce resources appropriately.
Constant attention to what’s happening in Cuba —be it prices going up or there not being any cooking oil in stores— contributes nothing to the disappearance of the “gorrión” – just the opposite.
Most of those who leave continue to crave yuca con mojo, congri and Cuban roast pork.
They also spend their vacations on the island after an entire year of working, and many say jokingly that they come back to kill a little of the hunger felt by their relatives.
The truth is that those who stay suffer as much as those who leave. I call it the “other gorrión,” because when one has a very close relative outside of Cuba, they’re always waiting…waiting for the family to be whole once again.
The situation is heartbreaking since there are more than 2 million Cubans abroad, and there are laws such as the one whereby leaving the island illegally means you have to wait three years before returning. Such obstacles run counter to the happiness of many Cuban families.
Let’s hope that better solutions can be found to situations like this in the immediate future.