A Powerful Weapon

By Irina Echarry

Renier and Yordanka getting married.  Photo: Caridad
Renier and Yordanka getting married. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 21 – Love is a constant element in the lives of human beings.  From remote times, love has been a part of the daily search for meaning in life.  Love for an all powerful God, love of friends, love of family, love of one’s neighbor, love of the country, and love between couples.  Some go through life waiting for love, others try to divert it from its nature without realizing that at some point love touches us all.

For Yordanka, a bank accountant, and Renier, a chemical engineer who works at the Nico López oil refinery, love is what unites them.

In today’s Cuba, where aggressiveness affects the way people behave, vulgarity is present in almost all relations, and a lack of spirituality and emotion leaves a deep abyss between reality and desire, these two young people have found the way to come close together through love.

How did you meet?

Renier: We met at the Novatec a pharmaceutical laboratory where we were both working.  We became closer during the bus rides that would bring us to a work center that was like a cross between the Orwellian ocean and Kafka’s castle.  After the initial surprise of discovering a spirituality inconceivable in that hostile surrounding, we grew to share feelings and genuine admiration that became a friendship that we still maintain.

Before meeting one another, had you thought about getting married?  How about love?  And now?

Yordanka: I always thought that I would get married one day, not in a traditional wedding, but I always thought that one day I would marry, in a celebration that would be a good excuse to gather together everyone that I love.  I think love is like breathing, it is essential for life.  I’m talking about love in general, love between couples and others (parents, friends, nature, work…).  When people who are in love decide to get married, that’s great.  If they are in love and don’t want to get married that is great as well.  What is important is the feeling.  Now that I am a married woman, hahaha, I think exactly the same as before.

Renier: I never thought of it as a possibility.  In regards to love, it always seemed far from me.  I knew it existed, that it was plausible despite of attempts to commercialize it as an image of success; but I hadn’t ever experienced it has I do today.  Now I know it’s importance and how gives meaning to life. All the risk involved in love becomes totally worth it the moment one breathes it and it can even transcend into faith.

Getting married in Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Getting married in Havana. Photo: Caridad

How did your friends react to the news that you were getting married?

Renier: In different ways and in some cases, even contradictory. Although they all agreed on the fact that we were taking a very important step in our lives and were happy for our decision, some shared with us their failures or lack of confidence in marriage as an institution, others supported the idea that we would consolidate our life project, and others were surprised by the news.

Why did you decide to get married, if you were already living together?  What (legal) steps are necessary to be taken to get married in Cuba?  Did you have fun at the wedding?

Renier: We wanted to get married for each other, not for institutional reasons that the contract represents, and the conventions and stereotypes that revolve around the subject.  We wanted to share a little of the joy of being together with the people we love. The initiative came from Yordi; I hadn’t really ever thought seriously about it, but her proposal left no doubt.

There aren’t really that many formalities required to get married.  We chose to do it through the services offered by the Wedding Palaces, which require a previous confirmation of the intention of getting married.  During the confirmation process, the date of the wedding is chosen and the identification documents of the couple are presented, in addition to stamps that cost 20.00 (regular) Cuban pesos and a divorce petition certificate in case a member of the couple had been married before.

Once before the notary at the wedding, identity documents of the couple and the witnesses, who cannot be related to the couple, must be presented again.  If procedures are done directly in a notary’s office, all steps can be done at once.  I don’t know how much one has to pay for this.

We had lots of fun, we shared the moment with a lot of people who love us and have been an important part of our life, and that’s an invaluable luxury.

Yordanka: It was my idea to get married, he hadn’t thought about it, at least before we met each other.  Marriages by notaries are easier.  The couple goes with two witnesses whenever they like. They line up (of course) and that’s it.  We had lots of fun at the wedding.  We were with almost everyone that we love and who love us.

What do you think about married life in Cuba?

Yordanka: Sometimes it can be complicated, because couples generally live with their parents, brothers, grandparents, that is, everyone and more that could possibly fit into a house together.  If they decide to have children, things get even more complicated.

This is not our situation, we live alone.  But, in general, married life in Cuba goes hand in hand with a lack of a private space to live together and material difficulties.  As such, intimacy is often lacking and a vicious circle of routine ensues.  Other problems in Cuba are breakups when one of the persons emigrates to another country, interracial and homosexual relations, male chauvinism, and other elements.

Marital affairs and break ups are more and more due to outside reasons other than incompatibility.

Family and friends at Renier and Yordankas wedding.  Photo: Caridad
Family and friends at Renier and Yordanka's wedding. Photo: Caridad

Do you think love can fully flourish in Cuba?  Are there elements that impede this or encourage this?

Yordanka: Yes, I think love can flourish, although I don’t think that everyone can happily live together with the person they love.

Renier: Despite the daily reality, I think that yes.  The anger and hate that comes out of daily frustrations and the lack of future possibilities has not yet completely frustrated love.  Many people take risks to start all over with another person.

What would you like to change in Cuba?

Yordanka: I wish people were more polite and less aggressive.

Renier: We need to begin a real project in the country before the cost of not having one crushes the existing aspirations to have one.

Why did you choose August to marry, such a hot month?

Yordanka:  It was a provisional date; we decided to wait for part of the family that wanted to be present and they could only come in August.  Otherwise we would have preferred to have gotten married in a cooler time of the year.

Do you plan to have children, and if so, why?

Yordanka: Yes we do. Maybe we are motivated by animal nature, to carry on the species, haha, I really like children, I think they are perfect in every way.  Of course it is a great responsibility to bring a being into this world that is every day worse.  It will be difficult to raise children, but I want to try to do it.

Any advice to other young people in love?

Yordanka: To be in love forever, to love or try to love everything they do, and to not think of marriage as the end of love.  When people fall out of love, it has nothing to do with if they are married or not. They should do what ever they think they need to do to be happy, don’t be afraid!

Renier: They should follow their heart, and not let circumstances dissuade them.

What do you most like about Cuba?

Renier: The light, it spills out in dim indescribable reverberations.

Yordanka: The ocean and its colors.

Yordanka and Renier held their wedding close to the ocean in the afternoon light, although the music drowned out the sound of the waves and the light of the moon was made faint by the yard lights, both will remember the day as another day in their lives.  A special day for the amount of loved ones who surrounded them; a day that they became closer to the pleasure of being together from a different perspective.

Nowadays, it is not as common to find young people in Cuba who fall in love and decide to get married. The majority prefer to be together without the formality of official documentation.  Renier and Yordanka belong to those who dreamt one day of finding true love.  She was sure that she would live it; he wasn’t so sure.

Anyhow, they decided to hand in hand walk the difficult path that is living together in Cuba.  Most young people in Cuba are discouraged when it comes to having family due to a lack of space, material shortages or lack of hope for a better future.  This was not a problem for this couple, they know that love conquers all, and with this powerful weapon they take on the daily challenges.  We hope it will always be a powerful weapon.

2 thoughts on “A Powerful Weapon

  • What a beautiful story of love! Best wishes to Yordanka and Renier!

    And, best wishes to Irina, as well!

  • Truly, a lovely story. Anyone who reads it will be pleased that the couple has found happiness with one another, and are making a committment to be together in a warm and radiant love. And they don’t have to break the bank to get married!

    Alas, there’s an odd disconnect between the couple’s love and the author’s image of life on the island. The image of contemporary Cuba which Irina Echarry presents,

    “where aggressiveness affects the way people behave,
    vulgarity is present in almost all relations, and a lack
    of spirituality and emotion leaves a deep abyss between
    reality and desire”

    This stands in stark contrast to the love these two people share.

    The couple seems to live in a completely different world from the interviewer. They are happy while the author sees mostly a lot of sourness, doom and gloom. When seeking fault, as psychologist Lonnie Barbach has written, it’s better to use a mirror than a telescope…

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