—I believe there were some small jumps after my first leap, but I’m only going to talk about the big leaps that brought significant changes to my life.
I’d say that the second big leap came after the decision not to go to junior high school (7-9th grades) at the school near my apartment in Reparto Eléctrico, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana. Instead, I decided to go to a boarding school in the countryside.
These schools are designed to form a new type of person, cultured and hard-working, by combining studying with farm work.
Living far from the city, the students would see their parents only on the weekends when given a pass to go home. Given my shyness and young age of 14, going to boarding school was a major decision, but even bigger was the world I would experience once there.
The boarding school seemed designed to mold delinquents, judging by the quantity of abuse and vandalism I saw on a daily basis, including theft; destruction of work and study materials; verbal and physical abuse of students by teachers and of younger students by older ones; and arguments that ended with much violence. The farm work was also very strenuous for such young teenagers.
The experience was very traumatic for me, and I ended up going to eighth and ninth grade back home in my neighborhood. However, it left me marked by the experience of a life amid violence and the certainty that from there on, solitude was going to be my companion.
Then, after years of silence, my most important discovery was reading. I devoured every book I got my hands on without a guide. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with each new world that books gave me.