Maria Matienzo Puerto
HAVANA TIMES, Jan 13 — I have a friend who lives on the other side of the world, which isn’t really a novelty – anyone can have a friend who asks questions and who lives on the other side of the world.
The worst is when this friend asks me about my dreams, and I then have to spend more than a week thinking about what those actually are.
Or when she asks a lot of questions that put knots in my throat, making me leave the response for later (only so that I don’t have to talk about my dreams).
Then, when I do answer, I still have the urge to cry, because that’s when I discover my situation, but I don’t know how to translate it into English.
These dreams go back to when I was a little girl and I wanted to be firefighter. My mother punished me, saying that’s not a professiont for girls; and though later someone convinced her to give me a military uniform, and whenever there was a costume party I would dress up like a soldier, my dream of being a firefighter remained in the air.
Over the years she told me it was because of the danger and her fear of fire.
As a teenager I wanted to realize my dream, so I tried to enroll in a military school. I wanted to be a telecommunications engineer, but (fortunately, I realize now) I wasn’t accepted. Perhaps some of them saw in me the incorrigible complainer that I am now.
It was back then that I started writing. I read (and still read) compulsively, whether it was in the middle of math class, in the dorm or out in the rural high school*. That’s where my dreams to be a sailor began, in tandem with my tremendous desire to travel the world.
Simple dreams or simply dreaming
I dreamed I’d go to India, walk the route of St. James’ Way, climb the mountains that protect Machu Picchu, approach a live volcano, cross the Black Sea, free fall from an airplane, see my city from the sea, cross a border, fall in love with a woman from the other side of the world… In short, I dreamed.
Some were simple dreams, like seeing my city from the sea; yet I haven’t been able to accomplish it because Cubans need special permits to sail; if you don’t have one you become branded a potential emigrant.
Of course things have changed in me over the years because everything in the country remains unshaken. I discarded some of my dreams because I knew I’d never be able to realize them, but new ones have emerged.
For example, I dream of a future of movement and development for the island; I dream of having a child, which right now I can’t have because the island isn’t improving. I dream of having my own publishing house, even if it’s not here on the island, because the opening for private sector publishers isn’t in the cards at the Ministry of Culture.
I dream of owning my own home. Until a few months ago, the only way to have a home was to inherit one, but my generation didn’t get anything out of that.
And I dream of traveling, but in Cuba the wages are still a pittance. They’re not enough to rent a little place to live or even travel to the east side of this same island.
Some of my dreams are more grounded than others, those that do nothing but remind me that I live and work in the 21st century.
For example, Internet access, or computers that allow one to work more and better, storage devices, mobile phones, etc., etc., etc. Nothing spiritual…but necessary.
Now that I’ve told you my dreams, I wonder if the rest of the world’s dreams are as basic as mine.
Me — someone who believed herself to be a realized woman, free and liberated because I like my job, because I have assumed my sexuality without conflicts — I can hardly do an inventory of my dreams. It’s simply too frustrating.
Am I asking too much? It’s assumed that what I do to sustain myself will provide all of this and more.
Freedom is not only the state of consciousness that many people attempt to sustain. Sometimes the others — those with power — strive (and succeed) to strangle dreams, clipping your wings and leaving you as a prisoner.
So that I don’t get frustrated, I’ve done more than the impossible. So at this point the fault lies with those others, those who limit our life, those who put rubber stamps on papers and give the yes or no; those who say “you can’t.”
(*) From the 1960’s to early 2000, high school education in Cuba involved studying in schools located in rural areas on the island.