Irina Echarry

TRAVELING - Photo: Caridad

Traveling is a constant in the thoughts of Cubans.

I wonder if this is because of the prohibitions on traveling abroad (Cubans who wish to travel must obtain a letter of invitation from someone in the destination country; they cannot just apply for a visa and then go directly to the airport to buy a ticket).

Or perhaps it’s because of the difficulties one must face when a trip is within the country (the long time it takes to buy a ticket, the delays in bus departures, etc.).  But once this aim is materialized, the body and soul are thankful.

There are many rumors circulating through the country’s capital.  The hearsay travels from mouth to mouth —mushrooming— while the government says nothing definitive on the issue.

It’s said they’re going to eliminate the “Tarjeta Blanca” (white card), the exit permission required by the Cuban government for citizens to leave the country.

It’s also believed that when a new currency is created that will circulate in the ALBA-member countries, their residents will be able to travel from one country to another without previously requiring a visa – similar to the European Union.

However, I’m quite skeptical with respect to this last rumor; and this is not only because of the great deal that is lacking for the institution of a sole currency.  It’s also because I think it will be a very difficult step for a government that has feared travel so much (putting restrictions on leaving and then on entering if someone happens not to return when expected).  It would be like opening the doors of the cell just like that, allowing its citizens to journey wherever they want.

People continue wanting their right to leave and enter Cuba be respected; they want to see the world, to choose where to live.

According to what a friend in Central Havana told me, it’s reached the point that on New Year’s Eve —in addition to the buckets of water that people traditionally pour from their balconies at the stroke of midnight as symbol of spiritual cleaning— many youth took to the streets dragging trunks and carrying suitcases. This was said to be a harbinger of travel.

For my part, if I had some power, I would wish to see 2010 fulfill the hopes for travel held by all Cubans who need to.


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.

4 thoughts on “Hopes for Travel

  • Sorry, . . . but you’re playing into the hands of the moneyed individuals & corporations who once owned & controlled Cuba. When you speak of those who yearn to travel, or yearn to move to Miami, I can replace “Cubans” with “Dominicans”, with “Guatemalans”, with ” Hondurans”, with “El Salvadorans”, with “Colombians”, with “Paraguayans”, with “Argentines”, . . . & the statement will be as true. Generally, it is economies that cause migrations of people. People want more economic opportunity, . . . the powers that control U.S.-Cuba travel policy know this, & therefore do anything & everything to prevent the Cuba economy from flowering. The last thing these people want is a successful model that others might look to to help improve their own systems. I’m living in Argentina at the moment & meet people all the time who would love to move to Miami. Do you really think that all they need to do is file for a visa, wait a few months, & fly in to “paradise”?

  • (cont.) Also, even if those Cubans travelling abroad fail to return, or return in a timely manner, eventually many will be sending remittances home to their families, and this $$$ gives much-needed capital to help the Cuban economy. If a medical doctor or engineer fails to return, in the long-run the remittances s/he sends home will be more valuable for the Cuban economy. Also, such freedom to travel will be a good antidote to those who say that such restrictions on travel constitute an example of Cuba’s lack of freedom. Whether Cuba, or Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, etc., most immigrants to the North are economic refugees, anyway. Some, after seeing the great wide world, will elect to return home, for as Dorothy says in “The Wizard of Oz,” “There’s no place like home!” The many who will elect to remain abroad, however, will return home on a regular basis, perhaps even establishing dual residency, and of course pumping economic resources into the Fatherland.

  • Before the Revolution, and during its earliers years, it was so easy for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Cubans to travel to the U.S. During the summer of 1959, when I was 16, I took the Greyhound bus from Miami to Key West, then an ancient “Aereonaves de Q” DC-3 across to Habana, where I stayed June through August. Most of the other travelers, coming and going, were Cubans. Every other day a steamship used to leave from the Port of Miami for Habana, and I believe at one time there was an auto-ferry from Key West. Times have changed. Not only is it difficult leaving Cuba, but also entering the U.S., Canada and any Western Europe country; they want guarantees those entering will not overstay their visas, and especially become dependent upon state welfare systems. Still, there is no excuse for restrictions not to be lifted, at least on the Cuban side. Travel is a key ingredient to a broader, deeper, education (as exemplified by Che Himself!).

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