By Veronica Vega
HAVANA TIMES – When people ask me why I don’t write articles anymore, I can only answer: because writing about Cuba is a devastating exercise.
I came across these photos today and understood just how innocent we were when we used to write about the country we wanted, and even tried to build, without thinking that this represented a war.
The photos are of the Havana Times group. We would meet every six months, getting together was a party, having a picnic and discovering every time how much serious conversations get diluted down among Cubans, because everything is tinged with never-ending jokes and laughter.
I haven’t been able to find this common sentiment that unites us, in this kind of unspoken complicity, with people born outside of the island.
I don’t know whether it’s because we live in a tense situation where censorship is accepted as an evil birthright, or whether it’s because of incredible, surrealist solutions, given so many shortages. Or because of the dual condition of expansion and claustrophobia that living surrounded by a deep-blue sea has, whose presence gives us both this simultaneous feeling of hope and tragedy.
I’m looking at these photos and I can count how many have left. I know that displacement is natural in every society, group, family, but this movement is forced in Cuba, imposed because there are no future prospects. So, these photos of the group represent the history of the entire country, of every generation post-1959.
Many leave because of political pressure, knowing that they can’t come back. Others, who don’t have any restrictions on coming back, say that every time they return, things are a lot worse, and they begin to experience a strange break between the mental country they long for and the real one where the dominant belief (passing through resistance and emotional heartbreak) is that there is nothing left to save here.
I can’t put myself in the shoes of somebody who has emigrated no matter how much I’ve experienced exile in some form by the dismantling of my own family, and all the groups I’ve got involved in and developed some sense of belonging. None of them exist anymore, and at least half of their members have chosen exile.
I understand those who see me as if I were stuck on a piece of wood, out at sea, while a storm approaches and everyone around me is on a sturdy boat.
I understand the desperation. On July 11th, all of the utopias that had been naturally gestating among civil society – with spontaneous proposals to restructure an absolutely incompetent system, dysfunctional to the point it affects almost every one of us -, came crashing down in a single blow.
The response has been: NO. For artists, independent journalists, the self-employed, animal rights advocates, the LGBT community, the opposition. We can’t contribute to improving our own society. As a result, we can’t belong. The only right we’re granted is to sit on the sidelines and passively watch the destruction of everything we love, of everything that matters to us.
Being Cuban thus transforms us into carriers of a congenital disease that progressively and sadly eats away at us from the inside.
A general condition that now hangs in the island air. We breath it in and it forms part of the reality we share, just like the landscape, or the weather.
But the question we must ask is: how much sadness can we bear?