Rosa Martinez

Photo by Caridad from a performance of the Cuban artist Manuel Mendive.

HAVANA TIMES, April 11 — No one can say with certainty the number of Cubans who have emigrated to other countries, but it’s believed that more than two million walk the planet trying to survive.  You can find one just as easily on some remote Pacific island as in the Americas close to here.

Over the years Cubans have attempted to leave the island by planes, ships and rafts of all shapes and sizes.  They’ve tried bursting into embassies, jineteando [hustling/prostituting], and deserting sports teams, cultural delegations, volunteer medical brigades or any other type of contingent that goes abroad.  In short, they flee by any means possible.

Emigration is by no means something exclusive to Cuba, though through the Cuban Adjustment Act the United States lends special treatment to those who step on US soil.

The motives leading our compatriots to emigrate are the same ones that have prompted this demographic process since human kind’s very emergence: firstly the economic situation, people seek better wages and living conditions; secondly, personal questions, those who were left behind in their country of origin look for a way to reunite with their relatives; and lastly, political reasons.

There are immigrants who try to escape social insecurity, persecution and even war, but I’m sure that no one would imagine that a beautiful young woman would want to leave Cuba to escape a violent man.

But it’s true

“Now, yes, I’m leaving for Mexico,” Claudia told me when I went to visit her in the provincial hospital.  Her husband had beaten her up again, only this time there was no way to cover it up.  In addition to her injuries being perceptible, they were also very serious.  She almost lost her right eye and she had a broken nose.

The worst thing is that my cousin is not one of the despairing victims of “Castro’s tyrannical regime, like some an ultra-right headline might read.  She is a victim, indeed, but of a machista idiot who believes that being a man entitles him to hit her.

She has been hospitalized for several days but this is the first time I’ve gone to see her.  I felt so much rage towards him, because of her, that I couldn’t get myself to come earlier.  Her sister said that she looked like a monster when the paramedics arrived, and she added, “The neighbors who found her thought she was dead.”

My cousin is not a young person with dreams and goals to fulfill by trying to leave a country with few opportunities and full of misery.  She’s simply one of the many women who are abused, but with the peculiarity that when she recovers she’ll forget the black eye, the cuts on her legs, her fractured arm and her husband’s argument with the family.  She will forget everything, even the tragedy she could face at the hands of this man – who should be in prison, not at her bedside.

She doesn’t want to abandon her country, nor her only sister, or her family, her comrades, her flowers or her little house.

I’ve tried to explain to myself — thousands of times — what makes her return to his arms.  I try to imagine this man being the father of my children and that I’m a dependent housewife who doesn’t know how to do anything else but serve and take care of her husband; or that I have a sick son who needs his father’s affection; or that I don’t have anywhere to live or money for food.  I imagine that he’s so evil that I’m afraid to look him in the eyes.  But I swear that in each one of those situations I would find a way to not let that those violent hands touch me again.

My cousin says she’s in love and yet threatened with death at the same time.  “Raul is a good man.  The blame is on his damned jealousy…it drives him crazy.  He only hits me because he thinks I flirt with every man who comes along.  He doesn’t realize how much I’m in love with him.  I don’t dare to accuse him of anything out of fear that the remedy would be worse than the illness.”

Those are her words.  But nothing she can tell me can make me understand how she can live with a man who on the least likely day could snatch her life away at the drop of a hat.

Although Cubans who emigrate have the misfortune of losing their properties and their rights as citizens, and they can even run the risk of never being able to return, none of that concerns me in this case.  What I worry about is that to free herself from domestic violence, Claudia will leave running for no other place than Mexico, a country with alarming figures for gender violence.


One thought on “Fleeing Cuba for a Different Reason

  • September 10, 2011 at 7:42 am
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    Rosa,
    I have just read your post and it makes me very sad. I work at a shelter (safe house) for abused women in Canada. Here is a link to a page on the “Shelternet” website about “Understanding Abuse” – in Spanish. I hope it will be helpful for you. The most important message you can give your cousin is that she is not alone and the abuse is not her fault.
    http://www.shelternet.ca/es/women/understanding-abuse/
    Take care,
    Jenny

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