Precious Freedom (part 3)

By Irina Echarry

Perjuicio Beach from above.
Perjuicio Beach from above.

Could it be that sea turtle eggs are magic, and when you touch them they do in fact change the way you see life?  Perhaps.  Once again I wanted be far from the city, hoping that the unpredictable sea turtles chelonioideas would come closer to the beach during my research stint there.

This time there were three of us – two women and a sole man – camped out at Perjuicio (“Damage”) Beach. No one knows why it’s named that.  This is a shore with special qualities.  You need to walk more than a mile over ground made of “dog teeth” (sharp volcanic rock), and then descend a rustic rope ladder.  When we finally reached the beach, we confirmed that it was one of the most alluring along the entire peninsula.

The snails there possess the most vivid colors, the sea is more fervent and there is the greatest diversity of species of fish that anyone could see from the shore.

A beach for three people; it felt strange. I’ve never desired to be owner of any place; there, however, I felt powerful.

The gnats were the veritable owners of that plot of sand we occupied.
The gnats were the veritable owners of that plot of sand we occupied.

Our male colleague, Maikel, conducted himself exceptionally; he was truly a hero.  He had to haul the drinking water from near the highway, which meant going up the rope, walking back a mile over the dog teeth and returning loaded down.  He cooked, gathered firewood and told stories.

The days and the nights passed with no real changes, only the light.  The gnats were the veritable owners of that plot of sand we occupied.  They seemed ready to draw all the blood from us that they could.  We cooked shuffling from side to side; we ate shuffling from side to side – during the day, at night, and at dawn.

The wait for the turtles became unbearable, yet they still didn’t show their faces.  A jittery mood took hold of us when a hurricane approached on the horizon.  Pinar del Río is a Cuban province with a special magnet for hurricanes and other harsh weather conditions.

We collected our things, confident of the government evacuation effort.  The beach was dangerous; we were hemmed in between the sea and a headland (a kind of a natural rock wall). The air blustered as we looked out at the gulf to see the rains coming closer.  We moved our only tent closer to the headland to protect it a little more.  Along with all our backpacks, we crammed inside. Between the three of us, we felt we’d be able to make it.

The wind brought the tide increasingly close.  At one moment I looked out and saw that the place where our tent had been set up was already covered by water.  At once I remembered that I didn’t know how to swim, as if that were important in those circumstances.

The rains began and later the full storm penned us in.
The rains began and later the full storm penned us in.

The wind from the south, which we had previously longed for to drive away the gnats, blew with such force that we hardly thought about the absence of the bugs.  We spent the night trying to hang in.  We didn’t even speak.

The following day we cursed the world for leaving us to our fate.  There were only about eight meters or so before the sea would take us.  We were thinking of trying to go out and cook something, since our hunger was consuming us and the weather was getting better, when we heard some voices.  Total joy reigned.

A man with the face of someone important informed Maikel that the wind from the south was dangerous, but also that information had come about the landing of some drugs, so they needed a sample of his urine.  Maikel didn’t say anything until they left; showing an even-temper, he peed, and they disappeared.

The insult gave us the force to again pitch camp and cook as if nothing had happened.

Later we found out there were no trucks to evacuate anyone from the beaches. Many people had been made to urinate in vials and others had to do that at the police station in Sandino (another town in Pinar del Río), in addition to tolerating a dog sniffing through their belongings.

Was the matter of the drugs more important than our lives?   The professor in charge of the turtle project had gotten tired of requesting that they evacuate us, since nobody listened to him.

It’s a complicated matter. Guanahacabibes is a nature reserve area, but there are those who go there to hunt.  With people on the beach things can get a little difficult.  What they wanted was to scare us so we didn’t come back.

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.

2 thoughts on “<em>Precious Freedom (part 3)</em>

  • For all of my life and now in my sundown yrs (older than 35 lol ) i cherish freedom. However, as a Cuban from Africa, i will never ever allow anyone including leadership to dictate who i speak with, assoc with, where i live, get an educ ,or eat..Those things have been accomplished by my other bredren both in Cuba and in the US..

    Regardless, i owe Fidel Castro my life because i remermber being a poor student during the 90’s when the pain was so terrible and the US medical system so lousy that i had no chice but to return to Cuba for help.
    Today after almost 19 yrs i am free from disease and greatful to Fidel Castro Ruz, for implementing socialized medicine which has saved the lives of thousands around the world. This is to say nothing about the freedom i have to travel which i do 2x month…
    Cuba, is on the verge of change.

    If you get to facebook, twitter or my space you will find my story. i also will be sharing it with Soledad on Black in america2


  • Yes, freedom is all that it iz and a bag of popcorn.

    LACK . of freedom.. is also something that causes yearnings.. that can, will and often has an ability to keep humans from realizing and accepting that we are free from birth..Noone and nothing can defy deny or take this way. uffice that..Somethings must be taken….because like power. somethings never give up anything without a struggle. So wuill the struggle be external or internal


Comments are closed.