HAVANA TIMES — Things have been shaking on the Internet with a trilogy of open letters, each of them dealing with the controversial theme of the Cuban diaspora.
The first was a “Carta a un joven que se va” (Letter to a Young Person Who’s Leaving Cuba), a special for the website La Joven Cuba, by the intellectual Rafael Hernandez, dated June 16. In it is an excerpt from St. Paul’s first epistle to Timothy (chapter 4: verses 12 and 16).
The second letter was “Carta de un joven que se ha ido” (Letter from a Young Man Who Left Cuba) Letter from a Youth Who Left), by Ivan Lopez Monreal, from Pomorie, Bulgaria, on 10 August.
The third letter is “Carta de una joven que no se va” (Letter from a Youth Who’s Not Leaving). This one is by sociologist and self-employed worker Diosnara Gonzalez Ortega, whose letter was also a special published by La Joven Cuba, and with another excerpt – but from the music group Habana Abierto.
From different perspectives, all of them analyze the problems of emigration and its consequences.
One was by Rafael Hernandez, who belongs to the generation that lived through the early years of revolutionary fervor, when young people took the step forward to involve themselves in (and to do) everything called on by the new government for the construction of a more just society “by the poor, with the poor and for the poor.”
Rafael speaks of the rebellious youth, the literacy campaign, the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the war in Angola against apartheid. He calls on youth today to continue that legacy by doing a second part.
People like Rafael were not in the Sierra Maestra Mountains or engaged in the clandestine struggles, yet they were indebted to the bearded “liberators,” to those heroes who overthrew the Batista dictatorship and only asked (no, required) unconditional acceptance of their ideologies, their mandates. That was 53 years ago. And if you don’t like it, then leave.
Rafael is part of that generation that believed in the promise and rolled up his sleeves to make it so. That group was divided into three parts:
1-Those who became disappointed and left.
2-Those who became disappointed but have stayed, out of inertia, hoping to see what happens.
3-Those who still harbor hopes, because it’s hard for them to accept that they’ve been cheated in their beliefs (Rafael belongs to this latter troop)
In his letter you’ll find insulting passages (though that’s not his intention), like: “You didn’t have to live through the bad times or even through the collapse of illusions, but the only horizon of life. By the time you got here, everything was done.”
These words belong to the much-touted line of “everything you are is thanks to the revolution!” That little phrase, so often repeated, far from being accepted is increasingly losing adherents. Rafael is concerned that the nation is bleeding, losing its youngest children, losing its active labor force.
He uses the inefficient strategy of comparison: voracious capitalism versus even-handed socialism. Rafael seems intent on convincing the younger generation (though he says he’s not) of how necessary their presence and their staying on the island is. Naturally, I imagine he’s wondering what will become of Cuba tomorrow when the octogenarians are no longer the rulers. But nor will most of his young people be here to re-found the country.
Old Rafael, make no mistake friends, although he uses an archaic line, he means well.
The response was forthcoming. It came from Ivan Lopez Monreal, 28, a resident of cold and distant Bulgaria, who listed all the objective and subjective reasons for why young people leave Cuba. He belongs to that generation of the ‘80s, the son of rebellious youth, the child of those who carried out the literacy campaign, the offspring of veterans of the war in Angola.
He is also the successor of those, with a few exceptions, who saw fit to climb a little higher and accommodate themselves for official patronage. Meanwhile he saw his parents growing old slowly suffering shortages, suffering frustration. So many Ivans felt they had to leave because they realized that — contrary to what Rafael says — by the time they got here everything was falling apart.
Ivan is part of that generation who saw the un-kept promise, and therefore he “took flight” so that from far away he could make his monetary contributions to help his family and his country (because it’s known that family remittances sent to Cuba are one of the pillars of its anemic economy).
In his letter, he says something like: “Abandoning or staying in your country is a very personal decision that should never be judged in moral terms. I chose this path because I wanted a different future from what I saw in Cuba, so I left looking for it, aware that things could go bad, but I wanted to take that risk. I’m not going to lie and say that it was painful. I didn’t cry at the airport. On the contrary, I was glad. To say me, I freed myself.”
Ivan belongs to the group of:
1-Those who were disappointed and left.
2-Those who were disappointed and stayed, but are waiting for their chance to go.
3-Those who no longer have hope, but are spiritually gone, they are gone without leaving (Diosnara Gonzalez belongs to that latter troop).
The third letter is by a young woman who is a contemporary of Ivan, but who has not left, at least not physically. She speaks of the neglect, of the indifference of those who have lost faith in the improvements, which are offered but don’t arrive.
Diosnara’s letter is perhaps the bleakest. It recounts day-to-day life, dealing with corruption and lies, with apathy and chaos, with the effort and hopelessness.
“Many have fled to Cuba from within: young, old, officials, housewives, farmers, workers. Some of us go out like a short circuit. For a while we’re connected with what’s happening, but when it starts to hurts a lot, we do something, we say something, though many of us become indifferent. It’s as if we aren’t here, it’s as if we too had left. There’s also a diaspora and exiles inside Cuba, that’s felt though it’s not seen. We have built it ourselves.”
Rafael, with his attachment to history and his commitment to the officialdom, because of his intellectual position, if he doesn’t talk nice, we’ll never hear of him again. Ivan, from his frigid exile, is breaking his back, but he’s free. Diosnara, seems to have already left, like many others.
Therein lies this country, of those who have left and those who have stayed, of those who have stayed and those who are absent.