The Forgetful People Who Leave Cuba

Irina Pino

From this year's Havana Biennial.  Foto: Juan Suarez
From this year’s Havana Biennial. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Over time, it becomes clear that very few friends who leave the country remain in touch with those who stay. This is particularly true of those who leave for the United States.

My friend “L” left three years ago. She was almost like a sister to me. We had a spiritual connection and, sometimes, we didn’t even need to say a word to communicate with one another when surrounded by others. She went through tough times, when she didn’t even have what to eat at home, and I was always there to help her.

I would also hide money in her house and phone her to tell her to look beneath this or that decoration, for she was very proud and didn’t make a habit of asking for anything. I loved offering her help, it was something that came naturally. Before she left Cuba, however, she didn’t tell me she had sold her apartment and distanced herself from me. She knew she was leaving the country, and it hurt to find out she left without saying goodbye.

This didn’t make my friendship wane, mind you. I tried to get in touch with her via email for months, until she finally replied. She wasn’t doing well and depending on others financially. We then started to write each other regularly and kept in contact. But she would then disappear again for long periods. Only when she ran into problems would she reappear. It’s been about three months since I last heard from her.

Something similar has happened to Yanet, a friend of mine who lives in Cuba. Her soulmate barely ever writes her. He came to Cuba for a few days to see his relatives, threw parties and spent huge sums of money but didn’t care to remember her for any of that.

Those who leave only speak of their problems, the bills they have to pay and how they barely manage to make ends meet. What could we say about or perennial lack of money and transportation, about the bureaucracy we have to deal with, the high price of food, the expensive and poor quality clothes that have gone out of style, our constant mistreatment and lack of solidarity amongst Cubans, the prevailing corruption, the stress of never knowing what we’ll eat tomorrow? Despite all this, we survive, work and have faith, we look on the bright side of things, enjoying the bit of happiness we can find out there.

We don’t waste time talking to friends about these daily woes, we concentrate on the nice moments we spent with them, we tell them we miss them and think about them – we don’t even reproach them for anything, we merely express the wish to be close to them. However, they think we want to ask them for money, and they become defensive.

They see beggars where there’s really only love.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.


11 thoughts on “The Forgetful People Who Leave Cuba

  • August 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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    Just back from research trip # 89 Stayed in
    Guardavalaca Brisas. Eastern Cuba is in drought and many are leaving for other parts of Cuba and other parts of the world.

  • August 14, 2015 at 6:42 pm
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    Terry, if you’re referring to the embargo I agree and think Carlyle does as well. There is a political problem with that and it’s part of the nature of those who despise the Castro brothers and have tremendous, and rightfully so, influence within two huge electoral
    states, NJ and Fla. I remember numerous times hearing friends who left Cuba in the sixties and seventies tell me they would never step foot on Cuban soil if Castro was still alive. Pretty harsh as far as i’m concerned but I’m not Cuban and didn’t experience what these people did. I still favor ending the embargo.

  • August 13, 2015 at 4:33 pm
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    What do you meant by “self proclaimed dissidents”?

  • August 11, 2015 at 2:58 pm
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    Many people are leaving Cuba for economic gains – friend recently left to a entertainment director person for a cruise ship company for $ 4000.00 a month

  • August 11, 2015 at 8:03 am
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    With the exception of a few “self proclaimed dissidents” 95% of Cubans who leave for the same economic reasons that Mexicans, Peruvians and even Hondurans leave the want to get “stuff” they can’t get in their native lands.That is not a sin but don’t couch it in political terms, it isn’t…300,000 have left Puerto Rico in the last decade, PR used to be the showcase of democracy note its the basket case of democracy

  • August 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm
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    I can’t speak for others but my wife and I support her mother, father, sister and grandfather in Guantanamo. The Castros deserted the Cuban people a long time ago. Most Cubans leave Cuba because of how bad things are in Cuba, not for how good things are elsewhere.

  • August 9, 2015 at 2:09 pm
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    So why do so many wish to leave?

    I think your comment reflects more in you that anyone else because I certainly put my family first. those who work here are indeed compensated for their hard work and have an opportunity to succeed, however you define that success. If you consider that “greedy”, so be it. In Cuba there is no opportunity to be gready, or anything else, because there is no opportunity.

  • August 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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    Carlyle, let’s FULLY normalize relations between the US and Cuba first…and then we can all draw our conclusions after the Cuban government is granted the freedom to bring more prosperity to the island. As I see it, both the Cuban people and the Cuban government are at a disadvantage until the US changes their repressive policies first. You can’t have it both ways. It’s impossible for anyone to say matter-of-fact that the Cuban government…will not change…when Cuba has not yet been given their freedom from US intervention to inspire meaningful change.

  • August 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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    Excellent article which needs no spin on either side as I have experienced both sides even after leaving fifty three years ago

  • August 8, 2015 at 2:49 pm
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    Sorry your spin will not work, those who leave get into the greedy “american” culture where the go is numero uno and family is worth nothing. I hear this story from many who have family who has deserted.

  • August 7, 2015 at 4:59 pm
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    For the innocent or ignorant admirers of the Castro family regime, a key sentence in the article is:
    “What could we say about our perennial lack of money and transportation, about the bureaucracy we have to deal with, the high price of food, the expensive and poor quality of clothes that have gone out of style, our constant mistreatment and lack of solidarity amongst Cubans, the prevailing corruption, the STRESS OF NEVER KNOWING WHAT WE’LL EAT TOMORROW?”
    That describes the reasons why the daily Cuban challenge is “resolver”.
    Irina Pino reflects that weariness now engrained in Cuban society. They cannot change anything, their role is to accept the dictate of the regime – which does not and will not change.

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