My Return to Cuba

Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez

HAVANA TIMES — Four months after returning to Cuba, the sense of asphyxiation the city of Miami had produced in me has finally disappeared.

For me, Miami was a world caught between work as a way of life and the affection of my relatives, a city saturated with asphalt and anonymity, where the nostalgia felt by Cuban immigrants lacks the gleaming splendor described by the songs of Willy Chirino.

Across the ocean, the Cuba where people don’t know what to say, or think everything’s been said already, or think it useless to say anything at all, persists, that other nothingness one experiences in suffering, surviving.

Little by little, I begin to make sense of my brief and intense experiences in the idealized destination of Cuban émigrés.

I arrived in the United States with a deeply conventional attitude, as the former prisoner of Castroism, the underdeveloped immigrant, the unsatisfied consumer. That said, I had none of the inebriety that informs so much superficial fascination with the First World, which raises all criticism towards our new reality to the ground.

Months after returning to the island, I have finally freed myself of many of those conventional attitudes. Perhaps I’ve acquired others (the mild sense of pride felt by those who return to their native soil and similar fervent postures). But I have also made a fortune, a fortune I carry in the way I now look at things.

My neighborhood has become my equator, my gravitational center, my utopia.

The sense of impotence, of being unable to take part in the First World “carnival” and the presage of much-extolled liberties across the sea have become reconciled with the menu back home.

Now, I intend to build bridges and tear down walls – bridges that do more than overcome the haggard differences between Cuba and the United States.

This, however, does not lead me to defend an opportunistic return to one’s home or any kind of clinging to the past through dreams of a golden future.

My return to Cuba has a lot to do with circumstance, with family-related problems, with the lack of support I ran into. It also had to do with my inability to make profits in the spaces cleared away by politics. This may help explain why I insist on referring to something that could be understood as transit between two worlds as a “return.”

My return also has to a lot to do with reaffirmation and self-knowledge. To put it in clear and autobiographical terms, I want to use my experience as a “returner” to insist on the possibility of living the present and contributing to the future of the nation.

What more can I say about a story that seems to repeat itself?

8 thoughts on “My Return to Cuba

  • I am among the privileged Cubans arriving in the US in 1980, because of my close relation with the American Culture, which I acquired by living in Guantanamo since 1943. All my family members and myself worked at Guantanamo Naval Base or the infamous GITMO, where the contributed approximately 200 years of loyal work to the US Department of Defense, during every war the US has been involved in through Viet Nam.
    With no hope of advancement in that enclave, hundreds of youngsters quit their jobs and restarted their studies, aided by thousands of scholarships offered by the Cuban government as of 1961. Most earned their degrees in every possible field of knowledge in middle and higher education.
    Not only did we receive tuition, books, lab, lodging, meals, clothing, stipend and travel money during our student years; thousands were chosen to continue post graduate studies in east and west Europe at no personal cost.
    Maybe this brief summary may explain why, with all of the financial difficulties, social breakdown, lack of housing, transportation, food etc., existing in Cuba and the permanent showcasing of the American Way of Life through every possible means in Cuba, many have chosen to stay put and countless in the US, with all the material goods they may or may not have accessed , Cuba remains central in our lives.
    For the first two years in the United States, I did not return to Cuba because, contrary to todays migrants, that was a One Way Trip.
    Recent changes in Cuba, is making it much logic, humane and natural for Cubans living abroad, like any other emigrant to return to their countries. The naysayers, who assume McDonalds, Publix, Macy’s, Automobile and Food can ever erase what Jose Marti called “Our Sour Wine, is Our Wine”, should prepare themselves to see the reverse human avalanche that is the making, which will obscure the Mariel, proving Columbus was right, when he described our country as the most beautiful land human eyes had seen.

  • As Dorothy intones at the end of The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home…There’s no place like home,” and shazam, she was magically transported back to Kansas! It is difficult to adjust, especially to a city like Miami, and to South Florida in general, and I don’t think unwillingness to work hard has much to do with it. I know plenty of Cubans who work hard for their equivalent of $20 or $30 CUC’s a week (plus usually, a little “resolving” on the side). Florida is such an ahistorical place, a place where the past is aggressively obliterated each day/week/month/year (save for the aging exiles on Calle 8, who try to keep their memories of pre-Revolutionary Cuba alive). Habana, on the other hand, has living –and haunting–memories all around; in Habana there is continuity with the past, both personal and societal.
    I hope Yenisel and other Cubans will have increasing opportunities to shuttle back-and-forth, between both realities. Such passing betwixt both worlds may cacuse some cultural vertigo; in the end, however, it is worth it to be able to switch dimensions, to compare and contrast both worlds and, most important, to be an intimate part of both ambos mundos.

  • I didn’t offer an opinion.
    I asked questions .

  • It’s a very curious thing. I had a 30 something year old family member come from Cuba a while back. She stayed with family and we tried to make her feel at home. She didn’t last 8 months. You can just imagine what the rest of the family thought after all the time, effort and money spent to bring her over. After a life times desultory existance in Cuba she just could not adapt to a culture where one has to work, an work hard, for a living.

  • Moses is correct, but I had a similar situation to the writer’s. After years of planning, my wife lasted less than a month in Oregon when she decided that she and her daughter should return to Cuba. I can’t live in Cuba longer than a few days (at least while M’s apt had no hot water and no flush toilet), so I go back and forth.

  • Your apparent excitement to dialogue with a ‘real’ Cuban betrays your lack of insight into the Cuban reality. Yet, you manage to have an opinion anyway?

  • This writer posted an article previously about his difficulty finding a job in Miami. Now this post extolling his preference for life in Cuba. This confirms that not everyone is cut out for life in the “first world”. There are Cubans, Haitians, Guatemalans, Angolans, (insert Third World country here). who, for whatever reason, will not thrive in a more competitive and demanding environment. This fact is no indictment of life in Miami nor validation of life in Cuba. For every Yenisel Rodriguez Perez, there are THOUSANDS of Cubans, who when given the opportunity to achieve up to their potential, rise to the occasion. My wife had no hope of doing in Cuba what she is doing professionally now in the US. Does she miss her native country. Of course she does! Would she trade her life today to go back to Cuba as Cuba exists today? Not in a million years.

  • I would like to read some more details about your experience .
    After all, it isn’t very often that we, in the States get to hear about someone leaving Cuba for Miami and then returning .
    What made the return necessary ?
    What did you miss most about Cuba ?
    What did you like most about the U.S., Florida, Miami ?
    What did you dislike ? .
    What was the attitude of the people you met in Florida as regards Cuban-U.S. relations ?

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