Irina Echarry

Cuban Beach. photo: Caridad

In any country in the world, traveling has the connotation it deserves: allowing us to experience new geographies and different people.  In addition, many people travel in order to work and to improve their economic situation.

Left behind are the family members, friends and the place where the person grew up.  From the moment of departure, nostalgia takes possession of people – those who are leaving as well as those staying behind.  This occurs in such a way that it seems like nothing can compensate for the distance.

In Cuba, only the privileged get to travel.  These include the people who lead the country and have the power to come and go as they please.

Another group is made up of those who have family abroad and go on trips to visit them.

For some “secret” reason, the State doesn’t give permission to some people to leave the country.  Though they never state it, everybody knows the government makes such denials based on people’s records; those who think differently from the government are punished this way.

Another group consists of those who leave on a mission via their workplace.  This is the case of a friend of mine who’s now taking a trip.  Her workplace (or whoever it is who decides on the matter of leaving and returning to the country) said her departure is for several months.  She’s a close friend and we’ve gone through both good times and trying ones.

Nonetheless, every time I tell someone how depressed I am because of her absence, I don’t have to wait for their response: “What the hell are you sad about?  That’s great, now she’ll be able to resolver.

Resolver [roughly “to resolve] is a word that covers many things, but they’re all material.  It’s true that when someone travels for work reasons they have the opportunity (with the money the State gives them) to pay off outstanding debts to themselves as human beings.

This can be anything from junk food that we’re prevented from eating due to the “blockade” and shortages, to putting on shoes and dressing up any way you like, to buying books they don’t sell here, or even buying a computer (which are now sold in stores here but have to be paid for in CUCs, while the low wages of working Cubans are paid in pesos (MN), which means computers are effectively forbidden for most people).

The saddest thing is that we can only resolve when someone else organizes it.  It’s not up to us to determine when we can take matters into our hands or for how long.  If we add to this the most important yet least mentioned aspect of this all —which is the absence of the friend or family member— the situation is clearly not a cheery one.

Very few people think about how my friend will be exposed to situations of violence that we’re not accustomed to in Cuba.  Here we’re familiar with other types of violence, but you never hear gun shots in the middle of the street or see children working to survive.  Nor does one feel extreme insecurity when walking home from work.

Very few people would bother to consider if my friend wanted to leave right now, or if her emotional state could take the change, or if she had unfinished businesses here to take care of.

What matters is that she is one of the few privileged ones that someone decided could travel, so it’s necessary to take advantage of that.  The hard truth is that she (like everyone) has many things to resolve.

As for me, I’ll have to resign myself to her e-mails to find out what’s happening with her…ah, and to reading her diary entries in Havana Times.

One thought on “Passports

  • I feel so sorry that you do not have the freedom to travel. I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have my freedom.

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