Everyone in Cuba is Talking About the Same Thing

Irina Pino

Havana balcony.  Photo: Linda Klipp
Havana balcony. Photo: Linda Klipp

HAVANA TIMES — Everyone is talking about the same thing: the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Though some are optimistic and others skeptical, the truth is that the news has stirred everybody up.

People in Cuba want to be able to travel, find a way of earning more money and have access to the Internet. I think this is understandable, particularly for a country with ties to a nation that, despite all its differences, is right around the corner.

We grew up watching American films, accepting English as our second language, and we identify with certain aspects of US culture, despite the fact many prohibitions were imposed on us and anything smelling of that country was considered to be the work of the devil. I recall that, when I was in primary school, you couldn’t say you had relatives living in the United States in class – it was as taboo as the issue of religion.

In my particular case, our family spent a long time unable to communicate with my uncles. By the close of the 1970s, when the Carter administration and Cuban government adopted a policy of détente, members of the “émigré community” traveled to the island to see their relatives.

My aunt and cousins came to Cuba for the first time after a long period of separation. In addition to nostalgia, they brought over suitcases stuffed with gifts. Correspondence mechanisms between the two countries were later established and the need for closer ties became evident. We were all part of a family torn apart by economic issues.

When family remittances were authorized, we got a big break. At least we were able to buy essential things, and treat us to something (like nougats and wine at New Year’s) from time to time.

We had something of a family crisis when the water pump in our building broke and we were forced to carry buckets of water up to our apartment for over a month. You couldn’t find a water pump in Cuba at hardware stores at the time and my aunt, our savior, bought one and sent it to us. I won’t ever forget that, it was an incredibly kind gesture.

Now, my aunt is an old woman living in a rest home. My mother wanted to see her last year, but they denied her a visitor’s visa.

I can only hope that now, with the changes we’ve had, the two old sisters can finally meet and say their last goodbyes.