A Young Woman’s Decision to Leave Cuba

By Osmel Almaguer

Havana's malecon seawall.

HAVANA TIMES, 19 agosto – Yaneisy Rojas Duran, 21, graduated as a technician in library science and currently works as a librarian in one of the institutions of the Cuban Ministry of Culture.  She lives in the municipality of Playa, together with her father and brother.

Her sister has lived in Italy for several years; and their mother left to live with her a short while ago.  Yaneisy’s favorite pastime is listening to any type of music, and her greatest frustration is performing.

You’ve completed your post-university social service obligation.  What are your professional ambitions?

I would have liked to have continued studying in my field and to have become a full-fledged professional, or to work in a firm that pays in hard currency CUCs, or to develop as an actress and a model, but the fact is that my goal now is beyond all of that; it’s in Italy, where I’m trying to emigrate.

We know that it’s difficult to leave and live in another country.  How do you plan to achieve that?

Fortunately my mother and my sister are already there, and soon they’ll be submitting the final application for my brother and me.  My sister got married to an Italian a few years ago.  Don’t ask me how she met him, but now she wants to reunite the family.  In fact, all I should have is three more months here.  Almost all of the paperwork is complete now.

And when you arrive in Italy?

The first thing is to get settled and establish myself and to later look for some job.  I’ll work for any place that pays me enough money to rent an apartment and buy things for myself – something I haven’t been able to do here.  My sister and brother-in-law will help me, I won’t be left hanging.

What about your career? …your dreams?

One should never give up on their dreams, because I believe they keep us alive.  But I have to be realistic; the possibility of my becoming a successful actress isn’t great.  In terms of my career, the issue of studies there is very different.  To study is expensive, and more so if you’re looking to enter a profession.  Over there it’s not like it is here, where anyone can go to school – though later you might end up lugging suitcases around in a hotel.  There, studies are more specific and more practical.  If you graduate it’s not to hang up a diploma on the wall in your room; and sometimes it’s not even to be make it in your profession, but only a means of climbing your way up in society.

Don’t you believe that it’s important to be well prepared to find a good job abroad?

Yeah, that would be good, but I prefer not to tempt destiny.  If I have the chance to leave, it’s better that I take it.  Who knows what will happen here, even in the near future. What if they change the law and then I couldn’t leave?  What if a war breaks out?  I think the best thing to do is leave and work things out along the way.

But why are you so interested in leaving Cuba?

I’m sure that you’re asking me that question thinking in terms of politics.  I believe that most people who emigrate from Cuba do so for economic reasons, though I know that there are people who don’t like the system, and that’s their right.

I don’t want to criticize this country or its leaders, because I don’t believe that I would have been able to do better than they did.  But I don’t like living under the conditions in which most people here live.  I don’t like to have to run to catch the bus that takes me to work every day.  I don’t like the disorganization that exists in workplaces, and much less the wages, which are like pocket change and don’t cover anything.  I believe I’m entitled to try my luck, and I would hope that I’m not condemned for that.

You’re willing to change everything that you know —your friends who will remain behind, the places that bring you memories— for an uncertain destination?

I believe that there are problems that don’t depend on the place where one lives, but on oneself.  I hope that isn’t happening to me.  I have lots of hopes.  I don’t see it as an uncertain place, but a promising one.  My friends will always be here, in my heart, and I’ll always see them when I come back on vacation.  I also hope to make lots of friends there; I don’t close the doors to anyone.  I hope to be able to start my own family, to get married, and to have a bunch of children that I can raise without being afraid that one pack of disposable diapers will cost me a month’s income.  Also, if my mother and my siblings are there, can you imagine what I’d get into here alone?

To emigrate to a European country presupposes an increase in one’s standard of living, but it also brings with it problems that can be unresolvable, such as racial discrimination.  What are your thoughts about that?

I won’t be the first Cuban or the first Latin American to confront such a situation.  I’ll have to adapt to whatever the conditions are, taking safety precautions if I discover some threat.  I know that not all of the cities in the world are as safe as Havana.  The fact is, though, when you’re leaving, you can’t start thinking about all those things, because you’ll wind up getting depressed not wanting to live on either side or the other.

Lots of things could happen to me there, good things and bad, but it will be the road I choose. It will be my life, and what could have been but didn’t, simply won’t count.

What are the important things that you’ll be leaving here?

My father, though we’re like cats and dogs.  I love him a lot, and I know that he loves me too.  Then there’s my boyfriend, who I hope to reclaim in the not too distant future.  There’s Michel, a childhood friend who has always been at my side, helping me and taking care of me, and who I also love very much.  My family in Villa Clara province, my uncles and cousins, those who in the future I’ll see very little of.  The neighborhood, which in the end one winds up missing – at least that’s what my sister told me.

What about the language?

Fortunately, Italian is not so different from Spanish, and I like it.  I’ve been enrolled in language school for a year and a half, and I expect to have finished the course by the time I leave.  Sure, what you learn in a school isn’t the same thing as what you’re forced to learn once you’re there.  But still, I hope to become proficient in it quickly.  My adaptation is going to depend on it.