By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – The first time I heard about the “Special Period”, I was seven years old. I was at school and the teachers were very concerned when talking about the subject. My innocence at the time didn’t allow me to fully comprehend the situation, but Time hasn’t erased the memory of that day and the fear I had when listening to what was coming.
My brother and I wore shoes sown by my mother. My parents ate rice and beans while they shared a piece of meat between their children. They looked for alternatives, so it wouldn’t be so hard on us.
We were children, we wanted to watch cartoons at 6 PM, but our black and white TV didn’t always hold out. We loved the technician that would fix it.
We enjoyed fried root vegetables with fat, even though it left our gums resinous. We played board games under a streetlight. Electricity was a treasure and we only had access to it for a few hours a day.
Those long blackouts forced us to go up onto the roof to escape the mosquitoes and heat. That’s how I learned to count stars, to tell a planet apart from a satellite. Watching airplanes travel in the sky and dreaming about other lands. I learned to wait for my moment.
We went years without having any candy. Only homemade sweets my mother made, or almonds that we collected after bashing our fingers, which we then ate with sugar. I remember the taste of those banana sweets my mom bought at the first dollar stores.
The white plastic wrapper with pictures of fruit is a beloved keepsake. We collected clothes labels, empty soap bottles or food. I was able to get by thanks to donations from my friends.
I grew up with disgust for hollow slogans, long speeches by the leader, rallies, the UJC (Young Communist League) ID card. I watched how you need to lie with your head held high and curse under your breath.
I wanted to escape, to look for a place where my talent and youth would be put to good use. That’s when I fell in love and I let all those opportunities go for him. Only his determination to escape was greater and he got on a plane one day and never looked back. Time has passed by, I’m still here while people I love have left.
I have left my daughter a country of hardship as her inheritance, where potholes in the street grow at the same pace as hope dies, bread is anaemic, yogurt is substituted for a powder with no name that is to be diluted in water, and the future isn’t looking bright.
Everybody wants to leave, that’s the word on the street, their sad faces can be seen in lines, melting in the sun in this prison without bars. I’ve already lost all hope. That’s why I form part of this large group that have nothing to sell to embark on an adventure and travel across borders. We stay to say goodbye and celebrate the good fortune of those who can make it.
I have always been a polite person and I don’t curse, but now I have a mantra that I always repeat:
“Oh how I want to leave” this hell-hole we refer to as “DPEPDPE.”