HAVANA TIMES — I want to thank readers for their comments regarding the post To Leave or Not to Leave Cuba. To my friend Rene, who appears to be sincerely worried about me, I would like to ask whether he’s offering psychiatric services. I am flattered he should read my articles, but I am also disconcerted, for, I would not read the work of someone whose mental health I questioned.
Yes, as Luis says, the “sophisticated theory of evasion” can be explained as a “result of being denied freedom for more than half a century,” but becoming aware of this and trying to exercise this essential freedom within the very system that oppresses you, is there merit in this, or should one simply flee this system? One chooses to exercise one’s freedom, and it is always possible, in any circumstance. And, if a nationwide exodus is the only solution to Cuba’s problems, I pity this land, which doesn’t even appear to deserve a transition like the ones had by countries where socialist experiments were conducted.
To travel, and to choose to return or stay away from the country of one’s birth is a natural right. This is why I choose to speak in terms of “those who are outside Cuba now” and “those who are inside,” as anyone, at any moment, can choose to change their place of residence, and this indisputably is part of human freedom. What I find curious is that the majority of those who leave comments (in Spanish) in this forum, Cubans residing abroad, believe that, if one hasn’t left the island, anything one opines on the subject of Cuba is a rationalization for not having been able to leave. In contrast, they automatically assume that the reasons that led them to emigrate are entirely valid.
Why is it that many of those who speak of tolerance and freedom show no respect for the experiences and choices of those who did not opt to leave the country? Why do they insist in judging the lives of others on the basis of their own? Someone once said that, to prove that you have chosen the right path, you need not demonstrate that others have chosen the wrong one.
I believe, as Marlene does, that “the new (and even the old) generations are right to try and build a better present and future, outside the prohibitions that the Cuban government imposes on its citizens in all aspects of their personal and professional lives.” I also believe that every wave of emigres is partially responsible for the undeniable failure that Cuba represents – just as those who opt for an “internal exile” in silence, those who sincerely or hypocritically collaborate with a system that has destroyed our country physically and morally, are responsible.
I am pleased to hear of people who have left the country and decided to return to set a project of change in motion, like Antonio Rodiles or Yoani Sanchez, who, after returning, fought for her right to travel for years, until securing it, in addition to her right to express her opinions freely in her blog and even found and manage an independent newspaper. I also admire young people like Eliecer Avila, who emerged from the rank and file of officialdom, with the courage to question the establishment, paying the price of naivety, deception and vilification, and that he should have founded his movement, Somos +, abroad, to continue this project on the island. I am also thinking of Pedro Campos, who also has traveled and returned, to continue defending his socialist project here.
These days, whenever I hear that the number of Cuban emigres stranded in Central America continues to rise, I tell myself these figures express popular discontent and wonder how different things would be if those people were protesting inside Cuba right now.
Imagine eight thousand Cubans, for instance, flooding Revolution Square, demanding the political and economic changes that would allow them and their families to lead decorous lives – protesting, not to be allowed to continue on their way towards the United States, but for their right to contribute and fully belong to their country of birth.
A few days ago, I said this to an anthropologist and he shook his head.
“Those Cubans would never have protested here. They are the type of people who look for a way out and avoid anything that will single them out.”
I had to acknowledge he was right. Most of those whose numbers continue to grow alarmingly are apparently professionals or self-employed, tired of empty promises and solid obstacles. Back here, perhaps, they might have swelled the ranks of those who turn their backs on the few who dare speak their hopelessness in public, which, no matter how regrettable, is also their right.
The nostalgia and interest in Cuban reality of those who leave their comments in this forum, despite the fact they live miles way and could be using their time not to think about Cuba, is also a right.
I am also pleased that they should prefer to devote their time to debate about this “sick” land and to share in the common dream of our country’s rebirth, a country of justice, prosperity and democracy. This is why I now recall the words of a friend who left Cuba on a raft at the age of sixteen, whom I interviewed a long time ago, who said:
“I would one day like to see the word “exile” replaced with “preparation.” Isn’t that what people did before? Some would leave to return later, to make their way. To pave new roads towards a better understanding of this short breath we call life. Jesus, Buddha, Moses…even Jose Marti opened new roads when they came back to their place of birth.”