Cuba: “I’m a Foreigner in my Own Country”

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

Foto: Juan Suarez
Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time. From the clothes he was wearing and the accent he spoke with, I immediately realized he was now living abroad.

We sat down together to catch up. We told stories, asked each other questions, laughed. He introduced me to his friend, a woman who was clearly a foreigner but who spoke an impeccable Spanish.

From what I gathered, they’d been in Cuba for nearly a month.

Suddenly, my friend started telling me of places and establishments they’d gone to and, from my confused look, he quickly gathered he might as well had been speaking to me in Chinese.

With the best of intentions, he showed me photos he’d taken with his cell phone and shared some anecdotes about each of the places he mentioned.

At first, I thought it best not to say anything, but the girl he was with made me feel comfortable, so I said something a bit direct to him: “You had to come visit Cuba like a tourist to get to know it. I’m happy for you. Ninety percent of us Cubans don’t even know our own country.”

The woman gave me a rather surprised look and I took the liberty of explaining to her – with plenty of details and examples – what my friend and I knew too well.

My friend smiled and, between the two us, we explained to her that even though those touristy places are now open to Cubans (for the legal prohibitions have been lifted), one must have a high income in order to enjoy them, and the majority of the population does not.

If you live abroad or have a relative there who sends you a monthly remittance, or if you’re lucky enough to have a profitable business, then you can get to know the island through and through and feel as proud as you want about our landscapes, historical and recreational sites (hotels, marinas and quays).

The young woman felt a little embarrassed and a tad uncomfortable when she heard that, with the salary a Cuban earns at work, no one can save up to spend even a few days at a place like Trinidad (a colonial city in Cuba’s interior she liked). She told us that that is how she managed to travel to Cuba, by saving up for two years.

Since Cubans have the habit of laughing about everything, including their own frustrations, we lightened the atmosphere with a bit of jokes. Later, smiling, I said to her: “So, what do you think? I’m as much of a foreigner in my own country as you are.”


Mercedes González

Mercedes González Amade: I'm 38 years old and physically challenged. I struggle daily in this life be it on crutches or in a wheelchair. I have a 12-year-old son who is my main inspiration and for who I have fought tooth and nail. I hold a position in the governmental institution that serves the handicapped in my part of the capital. In the afternoons I practice tennis well away from where I live. My intention with Havana Times is to help spread the desire to live and to do so with dignity, especially to persons with physical and motor difficulties.

15 thoughts on “Cuba: “I’m a Foreigner in my Own Country”

  • October 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Oooooooooooookay. Then you should know better than to make false comparisons. If you live in Pocatello, Idaho, I would not be surprised about the dearth of African-American doctors and lawyers in the phone book. But if you lived here in the Bay Area of California, you’d sing a different tune.

  • October 24, 2013 at 8:55 am

    JD, Moses. JD.

  • October 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Not at all, I’m a registered democrat and don’t particularly like Limbaugh. However your attitude shows quite clearly that you see success (however you measure it) as beyond your reach. And yes, I do believe in Horatio Algers stories. Hard work alone however does not bring wealth, you also need education and a bit of luck. Just ask Oprah (by the way she’s do know that right?). Or did she not work hard? Regardless socialism has always proven a failure, especially in Cuba. It’s why they have been streaming over to the US for the past 50 + years. We Cuban’s have let our feet do the walking and have made a success of ourselves in this country. Thank God my parents and the foresight to flee the Castro tyranny when I was a young child.

  • October 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    …I’m not here to correct your misconceptions then.

  • October 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Informed, I suggest that you change your moniker to “Ostrich”. What about the fact that the top 1% in America now has 40% of the wealth ? What about the ubiquitous lament that the American middle class is shrinking like a glacier in Greenland ? You must be one of those Limbaugh listeners who still believes in Horatio Algers stories and thinks that Billionaires accumulate their wealth through hard work. Most Americans now know better. You confuse fairness with envy and hate.

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Ok Dan, How about these:

    – John Paul DeJoria lived in his car before John Paul Mitchell Systems took off
    – Ursula Burns grew up in a housing project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and now runs Xerox- Howard Schultz grew up in the Brooklyn projects before discovering, and now leading, Starbucks
    – Richard Desmond went from living above a garage to creating an empire that published magazines like Penthouse
    – Oprah Winfrey turned a life of hardship into inspiration for a multi-billion-dollar empire (…even you must know her)

    …and we can replace Bill Gates with Steve Jobs of Apple fame, who was adopted at birth by middle class parents.

    My point is that Socialism (although Cuba is a strange Castrista brand of authoritarian dictatorship) is the politics of envy and hate, as is clearly seen in your comments. I certainly do not begrudge these people their wealth, as they certainly earned it. They can do what they please with their hard earned money. Why would you (as you infer in your original comment) take it away?

  • October 23, 2013 at 9:58 am

    What? I live in the US. I said county, not country. The fact that the above-mentioned societies exist, says nothing. What is their membership ? I don’t think that there is a single Black MD in my town, let along surgeon. BTW, in Cuba POTUS would be a mulatto. Only one of his parents is Black.

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