By Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES – It’s going to be two years since I finally decided to take control of my life and escape a reality that was never mine, I’m sad to say. It was a pretense mostly, a defense mechanism I created to survive all the trauma I experienced in Cuba. Until finally, as a last resource, a last bet, I escaped from Cuba.
Sorry! Let me be straight:
I escaped from myself and decided not to carry the burden of this island any longer: Paraphrasing writers from the pre-revolutionary era and early years of the Cuban Revolution, Reinaldo Arenas and Virgilio Pinera, who ironically played an important role in the liberation process and again somewhat, in coming out of the closet in my new home, here in Canada.
All of my life, I have carried so much information, hate, resentment, pretenses, pretending to be half of somebody who wasn’t me at all. And only showing a part of my true self through my writing. I don’t know what would have become of me if it hadn’t been for this weapon that allowed me to gain strength and plough through the toughest moments in my life. Fighting to reach the light at the end of the great contradiction that has been my life for the past 30 years.
Today, I say “Blessed is the light” and how lucky I am to be able to describe what I felt, survived, and what I feel today with stories and journalism.
I am finally beginning to move on. I must admit that patience isn’t my forte, but I am doing the best I can to carry on my long process of spiritual, emotional and psychological healing.
I have to confess… if I had stayed in Cuba a minute longer, I’m pretty sure I would have put an end to the farse that was my life there. However, I found an escape valve, a space to breathe, with technology, cyber-activism, political activism, and passive militancy while working as a freelance tour guide.
That is why I left, escaped, fled.
How did I get to Canada? I would say that it was a stroke of luck, a last opportunity that destiny gave me, which I had created myself too with the help of many people who were my friends at the time and are no longer today.
I say “were”, because they always saw me as the militant, but they never stopped to take a good look at the human who was trying to overcome all the symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder, as best he could. Ironically I reached my breaking point when I was already far from that damned island, but the damage had already been done, it had been many years of being beaten down. And like the alpha male I was taught to be, I swallowed it all for years because every time I let my guard down a little to let someone in, I always ended up losing.
Ever since the first day I arrived in Montreal on May 19, 2018, up until the end of August 2019, my life entered the second circle of hell. I was a victim of domestic violence, racism, scams and almost a victim of sexual abuse. My self-confidence which had already been crushed in Cuba, was completely decimated in a thousand ways by some people I met when I first arrived in Montreal. People who treated me with disdain just because I was a Latino and asylum seeker.
I felt like an outcast everywhere in the social circle I was in, I was singled out and called a parasite many times because I was receiving social benefits from the government. As if I wasn’t worth anything, just another outcast who was taking advantage of the system’s benefits, they said.
I was on the edge of the abyss: depression, distrust, panic, the vulnerable situation I got through day after day was a sordid experience that is impossible to describe. Luckily, I found a lawyer who set me on the right path to seeking out professional help.
I passed through diffferent health institutions, luckily the health insurance that Canada’s Federal Government offers was enough for me to receive the right psychological treatment and medication for anxiety, and other harmful symptoms that were manifesting themselves in my body because of so much stress. My mental health was like a roller coaster, I would sometimes go from having the IQ of 85% to 10%, a person who can speak, is intelligent and active to a total retard without being able to fill in a simple form.
I was living in a great contradiction between my past and present: Ending my suffering or turning the page, shining, living, and taking the first step to living for the first time in my life as my true self, because I am finally free to be. This was one of the great dilemmas I shared with my therapist in more than one session. It was a tough process. But not impossible.
With patience, a lot of patience, I slowly began to come out of my shell in just over a year. Learning the language, integrating better, taking part, enjoying life and living. And over time, I also met people who without barely knowing me, gave me their affection, trust and unconditional support, without any sexual or ulterior motives.
I slowly began to identify and distance myself from toxic people, which was a key factor in me regaining my self-confidence. And I moved away from absolutely anything that reminded me of the trauma I experienced in Cuba. A country which comes to my lips without any remorse, it has absolutely nothing to do with me anymore. The only thing I will continue to hold dear is the love of some of my beloved and the small moments of happiness I had there, which weren’t many at all.
Finally, everything began to get better in my life the day I had my hearing on July 19, 2019.
There we were, a social worker, a friend, my lawyer and I. I can’t put into words how I felt after over two hours of questions and answers. Until after a break, the Judge finally addressed those present and gave his ruling:
“Mr. Luis Rondon Paz.
I hereby grant you refugee status according to Article 96 of the Law.
Your asylum seeker request is approved.
Welcome to Canada.”
My body was tingling, it was an indescribable happiness.
“You’re going to live Luis, you’re going to make it,” I told myself while tears came streaming down my face. And I thanked Life for having shown me the way.