By Rosa Fernández (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – Cuba robs me of my sleep. Sometimes, I tell myself – and I’m lying – that I won’t think about her anymore, that I’ll leave her behind and I’ll worry more about other things, rather than this toxic relationship we have of a placenta and a baby who cries for the first time. I have to cut the cord because she isn’t letting me grow.
I almost convince myself that I’m doing it, because it’s best for me, because I don’t live with her and her heat, I don’t get my feet dirty in its rocky earth, waiting for them to break properly so that new crops can grow. Also, because it steals time from me, it makes me sad, old.
I publish almost nothing on my social media, I’m always reading, I read a lot and I suffer with every word. I don’t share anything, I don’t comment, and I don’t take a stance – not out of fear, or because I don’t want to denounce the situation Cuba is in, or because it doesn’t affect me. Reading hollow comments is really draining, taking a stance in one group or another, having to define who I am and prove it.
Sometimes, I want to escape from all of this – and physically I have – but Cuba doesn’t let you. Even if you leave, it never leaves you. It’s an anchor, a magnet, it’s North on your inner compass that always brings you back to the same place and embraces you forever; it makes a martyr out of you, it weighs you down with worry, in every level of need.
The thing that annoyed me the most the last time I went wasn’t that you couldn’t find anything, that everything was dirty, that people were rude and you’re treated badly in public offices, or that every day becomes an exhausting battle to find something: a product, service, stamp, document, permit…
To tell you the truth, the thing that hurt me the most was realizing that few people care. They are all together, living the same reality and they are unable to unite in their own misfortune and change attitudes, ways, systems… Everything repeats itself in a cycle and it has become so normal that nobody questions anything. That’s the reality, you can’t come and change things, it’s just what there is, what we have, what we’re given…
Although there are more and more people who are trying to change this reality, even the way of thinking they’ve been taught, because they belong to a generation of the convinced, and they always run into walls that those protected by power raise, as they form part of something that allegedly works.
These walls have a name and surname; they are fines, regulations, confiscations, and the power in any authoritative figure telling you “you can’t”. My people’s willpower, their potential to change and their intentions are stunted when they see victims also becoming tools.
You can’t swim without a pool, you can’t plant properly and be productive without rototillers; no, no we can’t always do more with less. You can’t tie yourself to prosperity and do things badly. You can’t centralize everything, give out impossible licenses to just a few. You can’t distribute poverty. You can’t stop listening to what’s going on.
There are people who are trying to break down these walls and this force of habit, but the result is the same: their actions aren’t change. This is because every change that isn’t promoted from the spheres of society that have the power to establish and implement it, isn’t looked upon fondly and is suspicious. There is civic activism and it’s important to ask: why hasn’t more been done with this activism? This might be the answer to: why totalitarianism?
Abuse, insults, fear of what other people think, fear of what other people might say, fear of what might happen to you, of what they will say about you or charge you with something… This is how a society has been built, where everybody sweeps the dirt under the carpet; but they prefer to lift their neighbor’s carpet to show it off, because they were taught that this was OK to do and they even feel good doing it.
Cuba is also a script. It’s phrases that you string together from 5 years old, to have a conversation about political affairs worthy of adults. I realized when I understood that there were things that weren’t right, that we weren’t going anywhere like this, that they were entertaining us in the short-term, with hunting down bread, cooking oil, just trying to survive another day.
I will always belong to Cuba, even if I’m not there, and it will always pain me. I am going to form a part of it, even though it doesn’t keep me in mind when it’s time to make decisions, and I won’t ever accept this. I hope that, one day, I can have a business in Cuba without red tape, that I can prosper without fear, make progress without being scared in my birthplace.
I hope that, one day, even if I am far away, that Cuba is interested in listening to the opinions of its children who are no longer there. Their comments, their ways of making progress; and listening to us and sharing a responsible dialogue, that contributes something and helps us get somewhere.
Instead of threatening us with the idea that we can’t go there anymore, or that we won’t be allowed to leave; seeing us like inflatable wallets that pay remittances, top-up cards, passports… giving, giving, giving, without ever receiving. If only, one day, this all changes and thinking about Cuba makes me happy.