By Eileen Sosin Martinez (Progreso Semanal)
HAVANA TIMES — A few minutes after finding out herself, Andrea broke the news to her husband. “They changed the law, baby, there’s a new agreement,” and now… they can’t leave anymore. “We had decided to go just recently,” she said.
He immediately felt sick, he thinks his blood pressure went up, and he didn’t stop repeating the same phrase:
“And I sold my little old Polish car!… I sold my little old Polish car!…”
Lucia couldn’t find the words. She called her brother Julian and just said: “turn on the TV.” Some relatives from Cienfuegos, who had sold everything, were staying at Julian’s house and only had a few days left until their departure.
“I’d been waiting for some months now,” Julio tells me. All the time and arrangements made were in vain, I was really disappointed. But hey, we have to keep on looking for solutions.”
On January 12, Cuba and the United States issued a Joint Statement whereby the “wet foot/dry foot” policy was revoked. Therefore, a Cuban on the US border is just like any other Guatemalan or a Mexican; the letter of safe-passage, our carte blanche which made us “special”, simply expired.
Clearly, this measure will have positive results. In the government’s words, it’s a great achievement. However, in the immediacy of people’s daily life, it has also meant that many have had to reconfigure their plans. Those who had sold their belongings, those who had managed to get a visa to travel to a third country, those who even already had their plane ticket. Those who didn’t stay with their partners, those who put creating a new family on standby…
The same thing happens with some vaccinations: they’re going to protect you from an illness; they’re going to save your life. But when you’re injected, you get a fever that night.
At Pilar’s work, her colleagues were saying: “They should have given some time, a chance for those who were already in the process of leaving.” Another chimed in: “It couldn’t have been done differently. Can you imagine the rush, the bottleneck situation that would have been created?”
Even though everybody knew that it had to happen at some point, the majority of the Cuban people were surprised when they heard the news. Cuban TV interrupted its daily programming. Jessica heard the advertisement that indicates that several channels will make a joint broadcast and said to herself: “Oh, God, what could have happened? Who has died now?”
She thought about all those people who are now stuck in the middle. Uff. “I focused on asking my friends, on reading the news the day after so I could explain the consequences of this change to my mother and father.”
She always knew that she wanted to make what she called the “Cuban dream” come true: reach the US taking whatever route she could, benefiting from any law that would help her in her situation, so that she could finally apply to well-paid jobs where she would be paid for her expertise, and build a better life. Of course, because Jessica is an IT engineer.
But as she’s only 27 years old, she doesn’t have time for drama. “Now, my idea is to apply for study grants that will let me to grow professionally, spruce up my CV, and therefore broaden my work opportunities across the world.”
She has also thought about staying: traveling and coming back; earning money and coming back… “Yes, I’ve also thought about that, and I like the idea. Considering my entire family is here, and that the process to take them all with me would be very tedious… The other option would be to pray that foreign companies begin to flourish in Cuba and then work for them; that is a privilege here right now.”
Next month, Mara and Rene have an interview at the Spanish and Portuguese embassies. They were told that with Schengen visas for Europe they were allowed to enter Mexico. “If not, we’ll sort something out with my brother-in-law who lives in Spain. In the absence of an interview with Panama, because there’s no getting a date…” she adds.
They came up with a plan B and C, and so on, in alphabetic order, immediately. “At the end of the day, it’s all the same: bringing things [back to Cuba] to sell etc. The country changes but everything else is the same,” he says.
A week later, Rodrigo is already feeling better, and he consoles himself with the thought that at least he was still here when the agreement was made public. “There are people who have lost a lot more than me,” he adds. Now he waits, calmly, for his family in the United States to file the paperwork to claim him.
The macabre rules of a lethal game have changed. “Thank God,” a grandmother sighs, “and the government.” Sorting out this migration situation was necessary, fair and the human thing to do. Nevertheless, the causes of this phenomenon remain in place – unmoved.
Finding a new perspective, an opportunity to make Cuba a more bearable place to live, where it’s not enough just to exist and everyone, or the large majority, can really live, remains.