My paternal and my maternal relatives haven’t left Cuba — not for better or for worse. Here, we’re all going through the good and bad experiences of our socialist Cuba.
I do have friends on every continent. Most are old friends from college who now find themselves in the most unlikely spots on the planet.
“What’s a Cuban doing in Oceania,” I wondered when I heard that Raulito, one of my former schoolmates from art history class, had been over there for several years.
With most of my emigrant friends, I manage to stay in touch, both though text messaging and email. Through them I’ve traveled the world without needing wings.
I’ve now been to Milan with Louis and to Barcelona through Amanda. I’ve also visited the United States, Canada and other nations through my friends’ anecdotes and stories. From them, I’ve learned of people and places unknown to many of the inhabitants of those countries themselves.
Some of my friends have expressed their desire to help me financially in some way. Most were unable to realize their dreams, since all of them have more than one other person in Cuba who needs their help. Yet, more than one of them has managed to send me some money at least once, which I’ve used wisely and was infinitely grateful.
Almost all of them left Cuba after graduating. This means they experienced firsthand the consequences of the economic blockade by the United States, as well as the internal blockade imposed on a declining economy by those inept and corrupt leaders and businesspeople who defraud the people of part of our wealth.
It hasn’t occurred to my old schoolmates to tell me that I, like most Cubans, am to blame for living like I live. None of them would tell me that I should try harder to get what I want in life – much less would they advise me to take on more jobs, like they do.
Of course they would never say such things, since anyone who has lived in Cuba knows it’s almost impossible to hold more than one job. Although it’s now legal, the strict schedules of institutions and companies, along with the backward thinking of immediate superiors, make this impossible.
They also know that no matter how one tries, it’s impossible to improve economically with the current wages, not unless one has a job directly linked to tourism or a company that deals in hard currency.
So, the reader who recently told me that we Cubans should “push a little harder” definitely isn’t one of my friends abroad. They aren’t Cuban, nor do they know anything about Cuba.