HAVANA TIMES — Alfredo Fernandez’ post, Cuba and The Price of Being Worthless, took me back to the get-togethers we’d organize at the apartment he used to live in Vedado, Havana, a place that had a view of the sea (that symbolic and cursed expanse of blue). I remembered the reading of literature, invariably sprinkled with political comments – the complaints, speculations and dreams.
All that has passed and it doesn’t matter whether it did so too quickly or not. Time has always been an abstraction. If our host of old and friend now tells us he has ceased being Cuban before this government, this saddens us but does not surprise us. Like all Cubans born after 1959, we have become used to such inconsistencies and farewells.
We know people can leave at any moment, or that they aspire to. Separations circle all about us; one can feel them in the air. Cuba is a kind of floating island with a trail of ghosts that spreads around the world, a station where very few have any plans of making a definitive stop, where the majority awaits or keeps an eye out for the coming trains.
The resistance and elasticity of blood ties and friendships are constantly subjected to the relativity of distance, silence, the unilateral nature of technology and the tyranny of bureaucracy.
Why, then, do I feel something like a double dose of sadness?
Perhaps because even though one knows that, in order to be a “homeland”, a country cannot be a prison, that we are born intrinsically free to travel around the world and to decide whether to return, not return, leave and come back (as many do on this Earth), that right is full of traumas, lies and obligatory pacts for us Cubans.
Perhaps it’s because freedom, when chosen, comes to us at an exorbitant price, or perhaps because the unquestionable nature of this injustice does not suffice to move us to do something, or because debates dilute indignation into differences, suspicions and egotism.
Alfredo’s story merely confirms the status of a migrating animal that was imposed on us decades ago, a status we Cubans have accepted like an inevitable fate. As migrating animals, our wings have been atrophied, stolen or improvised using less than ideal materials.
Fortunately, rootedness and rootlessness are mere mental constructs that life forces us to take on, whether we want to or not, through the many experiences of loss. The unquestionable truth is that we are travelers and that we are merely passing, not only through a country, or this Earth, but our bodies also.
If an unjust law that affects an entire country does not change because there’s no collective will to shake its foundations, we still thankfully have the option of acting like individuals, of finding out that the world does indeed exist beyond the authorized limits, that a home and a family can be built anywhere on this wide world – and that our “homeland” is quite simply our conscience.