Should I stay or should I go? : The constant dilemma of a Cuban

Paula Henriquez

Balseros
Balseros

HAVANA TIMES — A horrible uncertainty weighs heavy on his chest. Should I go or should I stay? Should I stay or should I go? This question goes over and over again in his mind.

So many things suggest he leaves, so many other things anchor him to where he is. On the one hand, a deep sadness and on the other, feelings of relief. The indecision that slowly kills us. It’s time to wake up and face the facts, he’d say to himself; but he already imagined himself awake at the same time.

How many other people walk through Havana nowadays with the same feeling? Feelings which go deep within ourselves and give way to unease. At just 20 years old, Carlos fights with these feelings day after day. The young student who has to live with the difficulties of a city whose everyday life bothers, crushes and saddens us on a daily basis… or at least that’s what he said. When I asked him if he would stay or if he would go, he answered that while this may be an easy decision for some, for him it was quite difficult.

Why do so many young Cubans want to leave their country and abandon it?

Carlos: I don’t think it’s a question about abandoning Cuba, even though in the literal sense of the word this is what it means, it’s more about looking for a solution. Like many others, I want another life, one where I don’t feel so oppressed, suffocated, where I feel like when I do something good and successful, as well as moving forward, I can see the results of my work.

What would this life free of opression and suffocation that you talk about be like?

Carlos: A dignified life, where basic human needs can be met by our working efforts. A life where you don’t have to “invent”, as well as working in order to put food on the table. Also, a life where I can enoy my country, where I can see places that I’ve never been able to visit because I’ve never had enough money. To be able to go out on the weekend without counting my cents, like most Cubans do, every day.

Why haven’t you left then?

Carlos: It’s not that simple. It isn’t easy to pack up and leave your roots, to leave behind the world you know and go to a new one, a distant one. It’s not so nice to leave your family behind either. Furthermore, not all of us have the opportunity to leave. Traveling is very expensive, it costs a lot of money and there aren’t always relatives on the other side, helping you out. Leaving on an unsafe boat or raft is a risky business, a deadly threat to your life. A lot of people choose this path, they risk their lives in spite of everything. I haven’t been so desperate, but I guess that if I was, I wouldn’t think twice about leaving Cuba in this way, I don’t know.

What do you think the future holds for young Cubans?

It’s something that I don’t even want to think about, it’s not being a coward, but it does frighten me. I don’t know. We don’t know what will happen.

But they’re saying that everything will change soon…

Carlos: Yes, that’s what they say, but we don’t know whether things will change for the better or for the worse. And now I am talking on the behalf of a lot of young Cubans, and the truth is that a lot of us can’t sit around waiting to see what happens. We’d rather leave; we’d rather escape the reality we’re forced to live. We’re so sick and tired of watching them announce that changes are going to be made and then nothing happens in the end.

A question that always comes to light is why young Cubans don’t do something to change the country’s situation. What do you think about that?

Carlos: I would say that the Cuban people are a passive people and that we don’t want riots of any kind, maybe that’s why we haven’t done anything to change the situation. Some people say it’s because of fear, it’s likely that we’re afraid… or that we aren’t united, the Cuban people are not united. You just have to take a look at how much we hurt one another. I feel that Cubans respect peace first and foremost, above everything else. When I talk about peace, I mean tranquility, even with all of its uncertainties.

*P.S. Carlos doesn’t really exist; he’s just a summary of different young Cubans’ thoughts, opinions and feelings on this subject.


Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

5 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go? : The constant dilemma of a Cuban

  • Fictional? Why do you choose to point this out? Is it because you don’t want to believe that the reality of your socialist utopia is so sad? Even though this interview was contrived, it reflects accurately the despair of millions of young Cubans, and old ones too. Your Castro revolution is a failure. You don’t have to accept that but millions of Cubans are living with that failure every day.

  • “Carlos doesn’t really exist”

    Fctional stories seem to be appearing here more often. I wonder if maybe they should have their own section, separate from the straight reporting.

  • Honest responses. For all the pro-Castro commenters who refuse to accept the fact that the Castro revolution has failed….reread this post.

  • i have mentioned previously the film La Vida Es Silbar, a Cuban film in which one of the characters agonizes over whether or not to leave Cuba.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0192745/

  • An excellent assessment of the factors which tear at the hearts of young Cubans who would prefer to have freedom in their own country rather than have to depart to others to find it.
    The article accurately reflects expressed emotions which I have heard in Cuba. It is very sad!

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