By Veronica Vega
HAVANA TIMES – A neighbor asked me to copy her some movies in order to get her through lockdown, and she asked me for some contemporary Cuban movies. I was surprised and moved by her enthusiasm. For I have long been bored by Cuban film where the truth only appears in fragments, and the most biting aspects of our reality are unspeakable.
Not only in art. It’s hidden in our everyday lives behind masks and perspectives. We Cubans don’t even know who we are anymore. Furthermore, we seem to frequently engage in hysterical arguments, both in and outside the island.
I accept that I no longer identify with almost anything that is Cuba today (socially). I live in a strange “inxile”, like somebody who is floating as far as they can over the miasmas of reality. A static reality, yet so violent.
If we continue to emigrate…
Today, I came across a Facebook post, in which somebody I only know for their accurate reflections, said: “If we continue to emigrate like we are, Cuba is going to disappear. I sometimes feel like this could happen at any moment.”
Then, there was a quote from Froilan Escobar: “We crowd together to disappear, but not Marti. As long as there are Cubans on this Earth, Marti will continue to exist.” She goes back to the question of whether we will disappear, in spite of our emotions and ego. And she wonders whether it really would be better if we did.
Cuba’s demographic bleeding is such a common fact (like the sea that surrounds us), and it has been since my parents’ generation. However, I have never asked myself this frightful question: Is it worth preserving this island’s soul? This mental dream, so much abused and cast aside, that our own national identity has even become blurry and ghostlike.
I found myself asking the exact same question that I have rebuked from friends and family living abroad for asking. They see this country as a failed project, which they were lucky enough to escape.
Foundations and reasons are not eternal
My first book is called “Leaving is the only option here” (a phrase of questionable syntaxis, which has become a national sentence). However, in its autobiographical plot, I fight – alongside my son, partner and a group of artists – to prove that something can be founded and sustained on this alligator-shaped piece of land.
However, that was a decade ago, and ten years can wear down foundations if they aren’t being looked after. If they aren’t, just look at all of those foundations submerged in rubble, tropical rain and winds. Buildings with a solid architectural structure, that have suddenly collapsed, with the stories of different generations, even upon on living heads of those who were still dreaming.
Nevertheless, a year and a half ago, I presented this book in Miami to some intellectuals in exile. With emotions running high and through tears, I defended the need for me to return to a country that could still be saved.
How did this conviction fade away? Maybe it happened when I was calling for freedom of artistic creation and speaking one’s mind (with a group of artists again) and I saw the State’s hidden face, its unyielding repression apparatus, that patiently crushes what’s left of your innocence, candid speeches about rights and freedoms. Like so many people discovered looking at our country from afar, maybe with nostalgia, but also with relief.
Covid-19 gave the State a new excuse
Or maybe because the crisis draws on, given euphemisms unable to stop alarm and disappointment from growing within our hearts. Maybe it was the COVID-19 pandemic breaking out and the State’s new excuse for shortages and strict control.
Maybe it was seeing the never-ending resistance of everyday Cubans. People bend down over and over again in the face of unfulfilled promises, eternal dysfunction and shortages of everything, even medicines.
I don’t know. Today, I found myself mulling over this question which I had thought unthinkable before. It didn’t surprise me either.
Rather I toyed with the idea of what Cuba would be like if it ended up empty because all of the young people, children, pregnant and fertile women left. The aging are already dropping to the ground with the burden of age. One day, the vines will creep their way up buildings, houses, fences, parks… burying even Marti’s monuments, under a carpet of green.
Where will so many emotions and ego ultimately rest, this naive sovereignty that hasn’t done any good to save the country.