Living in a Different Culture

Dariela Aquique

Rafters. It takes courage to go and takes courage to stay.

A song sung by Ana Belen made me think:

/… the one condemned, who has to leave, to live a different culture… /

In an interview conducted by Amaury Perez on his regularly featured television program “Con dos que se quieran,” the excellent Cuban actor Luis Alberto Garcia contributed elements for this commentary.  The interviewee explained more than once when he was asked why he had stayed in Cuba.

His response was always that Cuba had chosen him; that this was the place that his parents had chosen for him to be born and because of this he owed it to remain.  He also said that by belonging and remaining here, he had every right to criticize, protest and aspire to a better life in the place that he has chosen and where he has decided to stay.  That was the essence of what the actor expressed.

Recently I wrote something that dealt with the issue of leaving, but with a different focus.  Now I want to discuss the situation of possessing enough courage to leave and to stay.

Yes, I call it courage, because people display their weaknesses in the face of shortages. One needs to be extremely valiant in facing material privations.  When the most basic needs become very difficult to address, the option closest at hand is escape.

This has been historically the cause of diasporas worldwide.  Likewise, Cubans have emigrated to many parts of the world trying to avoid this cruel situation.  Nevertheless, that will is translated in the decision to abandon everything that has existed in terms of customs, ways and particular traits.

It is all put on the scale: on one side the logical and rational feeling of wanting to live in a prosperous atmosphere and amid economic solvencies where one’s daily bread is not what upsets your dreams.  On the other side are the roots, an entire personal history, a maternal language, and an inner music that is similar to no other one.

I’ve seen countless people leave: family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, contacts, former mates.  In the immense majority of those cases the reason had nothing to do with political visions or other affiliations.  They left simply out of the desire and the right to aspire (from their perspective) to a better or at least different life.  Struggling for that change, they left often at the risk of their very life (an action that is very valiant).

For my part, I’ve debated with myself a thousand times trying to find the balance.  But more and more, the scale is tipped.

What I’m sure of is that what settles in them is chronic nostalgia.  Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Miami and New York are colossal and beautiful, but in them Cubans dance salsa, they play dominos, they drink Havana Club, they listen to Beny and they cry.

You have to be very valiant to live a life of subsistence.  But it’s also valiant and one is actually condemned when they leave to live in a different culture.


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

One thought on “Living in a Different Culture

  • It used to be that members of the diasphora would take with them a little box of Cuban earth. On my last Cubana flight to Montreal, however, one Cuban expatriate brought back several shrink-wrapped cases of Bucanero and Cristal! Maybe after he drinks them all up, he’ll have to return!

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