Cuba News Flash

Irina Echarry

Havana ATM machine. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — When I left Alamar, nobody, including myself, knew anything and I found out about the news when I got to Vedado: the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy had been revoked.

Walking along 23rd Street, I watched people who passed by in a rush, others who were wasting their time on street corners talking, and others who were looking after their businesses, and nobody seemed to know about it or, at least, there weren’t any signs of change in their daily tasks.

It was almost evening on Thursday January 12th and I got onto a P11 bus. I placed myself in a more or less comfortable spot (as comfortable as can be traveling on the P11 bus standing), phasing out the reggaeton music in the background and trying to think about this “surprise” which had been on the cards for some time now.  Now, on my way home, I’ve gone over just how many people I know benefitted from this policy in my mind, and the number of people who died at sea before it was put into effect in 1994.

I know that things aren’t always black and white, there are grey areas. I have made my rejection of this law public on many occasions; people don’t leave Cuba because of this, of course, but it is an incentive to go somewhere where you will have some kind of benefits.

An old friend of mine saw me on the bus and after greeting each other, I brought up the subject; he’d come straight from work and had no idea about the news. “What? Oh my, my niece sold her house so she could head towards Mexico and then cross over. She already has her ticket and visa. What will they do now?

I explained that they had also got rid of the Humanitarian Parole program for health professionals. The man next to us, who had heard us speaking, responded with a smile: “things are really going to get bad here now. When people can no longer leave, this is going to blow up.” The woman who was traveling with him told him off: “boy, instead of talking more than you should, worry about your sister, what is she going to do, she’s now stuck in Colombia? We don’t know if she already applied for Parole. And if they send her back here, she’ll no longer be able to work as a doctor.

Let her stay in Colombia,” her son says back to her, “her title is recognized there, she was never going to be a doctor in the Yuma (USA)...”

Word went around the bus and everybody expressed their concern or lack of care for their dearest. My friend came real close and whispered in my ear: “This isn’t going to benefit Cuba at all, is it?”  However, no matter how quietly he said it, a modest looking man, who seemed to be half asleep, heard his question: “Boy, it’s a question of principles. This was a nail we had stuck in our side and it hurt us; now we’ve got it out. It’s just the Cuban Adjustment Act and blockade left now, but they’ll also get pulled out.

Don’t be mistaken, what I’m telling you isn’t off of the government’s Mesa Redonda TV program, it really happened on the P11 bus.

And this was the firewood that gave spark like gunpowder, everybody began to give their opinions about Obama, remembering his trip to Havana, his elegance, his eloquent speech, his meal at that paladar, his smile and even his que bola greeting.

The bus continued picking up more people at stops; its doors could hardly close. The same monotonous reggaeton music continued to blast from the speakers. I reached my stop, the last phrase I heard was: that black man is the best.

Honestly, after hearing all of that, I don’t know what to think. We Cuban people are so wrapped up in our survival routine and personal matters that we don’t reflect upon the things that we’re experiencing. Everything is in the short term.

The only thing I have clear in my mind is that we’re trapped in a vicious cycle: people will continue to emigrate, because in order for them not to go, people need to feel good where they were born. In order to feel good about ourselves we need to be able to contribute, but if we leave and we don’t do anything to improve our country, this will continue to be chaos and nobody will want to stay.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

One thought on “Cuba News Flash

  • January 16, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Irina, this is a thoughtful piece. I agree it poses a quandry especially for the people who are in limbo having left Cuba but not yet crossed the border. I suppose it will mean that Cubans will have to choose whether they are willing to risk the US Visa roulette – will they or wont they be lucky and what will happen if they are not. Other countries than the US might become alternative destinations now, which might be good in the end. People will still be able to leave but nothing now will be guaranteed. This will be a hard adjustment for Cubans to make…

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