The Flight of Young Cubans

Circles Robinson

Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVANA TIMES – A few days ago I was talking with a friend about the phenomenon of mass emigration among young Cubans, anxious to escape what they consider a zero future under the current economic and political system.

While the official media makes an effort to portray the country’s youth as ready to defend “the revolutionary conquests”, and the plazas fill with young people during official activities, I know from experience that a significant number are eager to try their luck in another country.

If they haven’t yet done so, it’s merely for lack of opportunity, or because of strong family ties, especially if they have parents or grandparents who are ill.

Who should we believe?

I’ve read some articles in the official media about the serious problem of an aging Cuban population, but these analyses seem to minimize the impact of the youth emigration, indicating that it’s not so significant.

The Sugar Curtain.

It’s possible that the emigration of adults over forty is more prevalent. However, the impact of the youth leaving the country is likely worse, especially in terms of the country’s future. I haven’t seen any official data or studies that clarify this.

As I read the below article by Harold Cardenas, one of the creators of the “La Joven Cuba” web page – a site allowed by the government but somewhat more open in terms of themes and criticism than other official spaces – various images came to mind.

At the end of the documentary film “The Sugar Curtain” (2005) by Camila Guzmán, which won a prize at the Havana Film Festival, the topic is tackled graphically via a photo of the director’s High School class. One by one Guzman names each of her classmates, then the country that each one has emigrated to. The scene is prolonged because the list is so long, creating a profound impact.

Afterwards I thought about the people I worked with in Havana; almost all of their University classmates have left the country. In one case, no one at all was left, and in the end she too opted to emigrate.

Another thing that Cardenas’ article brought to mind was the number of children and grandchildren of high functionaries and leaders of the government and the Communist Party who have taken up residence outside the country.

Without further comment, I leave you with the piece published by Cardenas on February 3, inviting you to offer your own opinions about the motives and the impact of the emigration of Cuban youth

The contradiction

Harold Cárdenas Lema  (La Joven Cuba)

“And I must let you go, putting the ocean between us,
Paying the price of others who live by contradiction”
X Alfonso

I’ve thought a lot about those who have left, who one day said goodbye (or not) and marched off to other lands. I’ve thought about how many friends I’ve had to say goodbye to, of the few who are left and if they too will be leaving. I’ve thought a lot about the consequences of this, and about the contradictions, the differences and the circumstances which chance has allotted us. And it hurts.

Prisoner of a broken silence….children of the dawn

Of my childhood and adolescent friends, not many are still left here. I don’t know if I simply had the bad luck to study together with so many future emigrants, or if that so many have left is typical.  I wouldn’t know how to tell you because the statistics regarding the emigration of the youth in Cuba haven’t been made public.

One by one their chairs were left empty; so many, that today I have great difficulty identifying some of them in the photos, to the point where if they returned one day, we could easily pass on the streets without recognizing each other. They could never speak badly about their country: they left an island full of necessities but with civilizing goals that would be enviable for other countries of the region. They left an imperfect place, like that other where they ended up.

Without a set destiny and without a certain path that teaches me to not lose faith…

Left behind is the memory of that meeting we held to symbolically sanction the friend who was a militant in the Communist youth and who “betrayed us” by leaving, without ever investigating the reasons for his/her departure, or even if it was voluntary or not.

We’ve matured a lot since that time, but remembering is a way of avoiding any repetition. We are left with common secrets and a shared language that I can never go back to. The only thing remaining is the certainty that I’ll never again see that friend, and this latter fact stings especially hard.

Without distance and without remembering, in the sands of this solitude…

Those of us who have remained here have fulfilled some dreams, have others waiting for us and several utopias.  Those of us who have remained know that the other road is probably easier, but it’s another.  Living in Cuba has its advantages, something that ironically perhaps, you have to be outside the country to see. It’s like chess, a contradiction that would make you laugh if it wasn’t for the fact that your life is involved. For that reason, one day I decided to stop contemplating and to participate in the events.

In the feelings that remain, dreams that persist…

I want to live in a country to which my friends want to return, where the farewells are not definitive, where there aren’t enough seats in the classroom to hold everyone.  I want to demonstrate that utopias are not useless and that there are things worth fighting for.  And if the logic of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that each person has the right to choose their place of residence, I don’t want my island to be on the losing end, that it not be Cuba that loses that person.

I’ve thought a lot lately about those who have emigrated…and it hurts.

23 thoughts on “The Flight of Young Cubans

  • February 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Griffin, as an immigration attorney with more than 20 years experience, and many Cuban clients, allow me to say that either you have no idea what you are talking about or you are completely disingenious.

  • February 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Put down the bong, John.

    Who will design the machines and computers? Who will make the machines & computers? Who will provide the capital required to manufacture the machines and computers?

    Technology won’t bring the end of capitalism it will continue the triumph of capitalism and democracy over the retrograde forces of nihilism and totalitarianism.

  • February 12, 2014 at 9:07 am

    I meant that Spain had a socialist government when their economy collapsed in 2008, 2009. The people elected a conservative gov’t to try to fix it.

  • February 12, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Again, you are 100% wrong and 180 degrees backwards.

    The US makes it very easy for Cubans to emigrate legally to America by granting 20,000 visas to Cuba citizens every year. The Cuban government makes applying for one of these US visas a very risky act by firing applicants from their jobs, subjecting them to police harassment and other forms of intimidation.

  • February 12, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Griffin I don’t know what you mean by a socialist goverment, socialism means that the means of porduction are controled democratilly and owned by the whole society this has never existed in Spain, we have the highest level of inequality in Europe with some billoinarie and 3.000.000 of children in poverty who will be starved if they weren’t fed by,NGO or the public soup, and who wil never be doctor or engineer because now the education is getting very expensive,and now in Spain the goverment is right wing government PP consevative and ultraright with some tinge of ultracatholicism

  • February 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    You really do have a penchant for lying.

    The poverty rate in Miami Dade County between 2008 and 2012 is 19.1% as determined by the US census bureau. (US Census Bureau / Miami Dade County Quick Facts) that doesn’t take into account assistance received by this group. Also, as of October 2013, the unemployment rate in Spain is 26.7 percent. The youth unemployment rate however is higher. Unacceptably high to be sure, but not the rates you report.

    Why do you lie John?

  • February 11, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Don’t you realize that as soon as the machines gain awareness Skynet will take controll and start eradicating the human population. But fear not a leader will rise by the name of John Connor, who will lead the humans to victory….if only the Terminator doesn’t get him first.

    You’ll have to see the move to know how it ends John.

    All kidding aside I have a few bones to pick:

    1. Moors law isn’t a “law” in the scientific sense. It’s really more of an observation, which Gordon Moor has even said may no longer be valid.

    2. Predicting AI is a little more problematic than you seem think with experts in the field estimating anywhere between 50 year to 1000 years

    Yes John technology is increasing exponentially, with marvels on the way that you and I can only guess at. But don’t be so quick to guess at the future or timeframes. The past is littered with failed predictions

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