I ALSO WANT TO GO TO CUBA!
Only for purposes of scooping up dollars for the Castro tyranny (and at the same time make some money for themselves, no matter that that money is stained with the blood of our people), there are some individuals, usually undercover Castro agents, who have, during the last few years, convinced some of our fellow countrymen that they should visit Castro’s Cuba – oftentimes with a group of foreign tourists. Many in those groups are leftover Communists and sympathizers of our country’s oppressor. Those fellow countrymen who finally make the trip, justify themselves by saying that "they are going to see a sick relative." Why don’t they bring over that "sick relative" for a short visit for medical treatment here? Or they could send the necessary medication, rather than dishing out those dollars to the regime and its cohorts? Or even pay the US$3,000 or US$4,000 that Castro officials charge to authorize the permit (legal or otherwise) of those people to travel abroad. Others use the Pope’s visit as an excuse – all of a sudden they are overwhelmed by a religious fervor never felt before. Those people have never been to see the Pope during one of his visits to the United States; they have never been to the Vatican, but they "had to go see the Pope in Cuba," and at the same time take a few thousand dollars to the regime. And now, after the Pope’s visit, when you ask them not to visit Cuba, not to take dollars to the oppressor, they tell you with a fierce look on their faces that "if the Pope went, then why shouldn’t they?"
Pretty soon they will also say that "if the King of Spain goes to Cuba, "why can’t I go"? And upon their return, as if to justify themselves, with a dramatic look on their faces they would repeat over and over again: "You have no idea how bad things are over there!!" As if MAKING A BIG DISCOVERY UPON THEIR RETURN OF JUST HOW BAD THINGS WERE OVER THERE – this, after 40 years of enslaving Communism and a meager ration card. As if they had never watched a report on Cuba on television or read those facts in the newspapers. As if they had never had relatives in Cuba until the Communist regime needed the exiles’ dollars to survive and remain in power.
What do the mothers, children and siblings of those suffering in Cuban jails simply for trying to flee Communism think of these "visitors"? Or of those who have drowned while trying to reach U.S. shores wherefrom now these visitors leave to visit Cuba? What will our people think of these visitors, when the only hope they have is for Communism to disappear from our country so that their daughters and granddaughters won’t have to prostitute themselves (better known as jineteras), like their mothers do. The dollars sent to Cuba help the regime remain in power and destroy any hope of freedom.
But, why fool myself…I ALSO WANT TO GO TO CUBA!
But I want to go back with dignity. And, at least for me, the time is not right yet. Consider the following:
Have the reasons for our painful decision to bring our families to a foreign land changed? Has there been a change in the conditions that forced us to deny our children and grandchildren the pleasure of listening to our birds sing, enjoy the delicious fruits of our tropical paradise, delight their bodies with the wonderful caress of the waves in our beautiful beaches? Then, since those circumstances have not changed, but, on the contrary, they are worse now, why these visits now? Why now that "desire", when the despot needs our dollars, to visit the relatives left behind?
What sense does it make to have spent these last 20, 30 or more years denying ourselves the sight of our beautiful sky? Beautiful even when gray – a clean and warm rain softly touching our bodies and wiping away the dust and sweat gathered while playing baseball. A rain that truly worked more like holy water on our bodies as well as our soil. Oh, yes, I also want to go back. I’m already 66 years old. I could ALMOST make a deal with the devil to be able to walk through, even if only one more time, the streets of my childhood and youth. What I would give to be able to stroll through the streets where I played as a child. Visit the parks where I skated, rode my bicycle, and made my first romantic overtures. Visit again the neighborhoods where now and then I would secretly make amorous promises that I would never fulfill.
What would I give to hug any friends still alive one more time! To mentally experience moments of immeasurable happiness! I would love to caress the rail of the veranda through which I stole the first kiss from the girl who has been my companion for more than forty-five years. My heart breaks because she and I can’t visit, holding hands, all those places where we nurtured our most romantic dreams. Our yearnings were cut short almost from the very beginning by the disaster that has immersed our country and our people into misery and indignity. What I would give if she and I, together, were able to view at least one more time the sunset on our beaches. The sun sinking into the ocean, its color gradually transformed until reaching a beautiful gold before finally turning purple-red; and high above in that sky, clouds like I have never seen again anywhere else, their color also gradually changing from white to pink until reaching iridescent colors only seen in a rainbow after a vigorous tropical rain shower.
Oh, yes, I also want to return! But, what for? To experience, even if only for a few days, twice as much grief as I experienced before leaving the Island? That grief would be compounded by the sight of a multitude of children begging, supplicating in the streets -- something unseen back then when I left. A grief equally compounded by the insistence of young girls who could be my grandchildren, trying to get me to have sex with them so that they can afford to buy a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, or even a meal. The pain of witnessing all of that would be intolerable in and of itself, and when comparing the abundance of food consumed by "my tourist fellow Cubans" to so much indignity, misery, hunger, and physical as well as spiritual pain, that pain would paralyze me. And I, aware of it all, would not be able to alleviate any of it. On the contrary, in many cases my being there would only increase that agony. I would spend what I don't have to buy them, with my foreign currency, a decent meal -- meat, cheese, ham, rice, beans, fish. We would have a feast for several days. And then what happens after I leave? For those left behind, the agony would be worse than before my visit. The misery and hunger would be twice as hard to endure, having reminded the body that such kind of food indeed still exists.
And what about the agony of having to say good-bye again? AGAIN! It would be worse than that first time, years, decades ago. It would be similar to the pain of having to say good-bye to a dear family member who has been sentenced to life in prison or, worse yet, to death, and not knowing whether we'll get a chance to see him alive again. It would be like the first time, but this time without the dignity and pride we had then.
And what about the rulers and their henchmen? When I first left, I was subject to humiliation and ill-treatment while waiting to be granted permission to leave -- a long wait. But now, I would have to endure the sarcasm and cynicism of those who, cruelly and with impunity, would pour their frustration on me. After leaving proudly as a free man, a patriot, an anticommunist, today I would come back "thanks to the generosity of the Revolution."
And when reaching the street where your relative lives, a member of the Committee of the Revolution (CDR) would meet you with an artificial smile on his face, and exclaim: "Gee, you look great? What did you bring me?"
That person would probably be the same one who, after applying for your exit permit, or while you were in jail, or working in the fields, used to yell at your wife or your children, and probably even at your mother while standing in one of those long lines: "Go away, you worms! Let them go up North to find bread (or eggs, or beans, or spaghetti)! Food is only for the revolutionaries! Go away! Get out of the line!" We suffered these and other acts of degradation day after day, week after week and, in the vast majority of cases, YEAR AFTER YEAR. And this was the humiliation which those of us who still remained in our houses had to endure. But if I were to enumerate the insults, vexation and the million things that we were subjected to in jail or at the farm while waiting for permission to leave that hell hole, there wouldn’t be enough space in these pages. How could we then manage a smile for the welcome those noxious animals would afford us? And what about the State Security and Immigration agents who made our lives a living hell while making preparations to leave? If I were to return now for a visit, not "thanks to their generosity" but because the Revolution needs dollars, I would have to smile back at those janizaries. And the smile I’d get from them would be sending a message – "You see, you came back. I knew you had no dignity, that you were a miserable worm. You now come back to kiss our feet and give us the dollars we need."
Yes, I would love to go back. But I’m not willing to pay the price. I want to go back, but only when the time is right. I will wait for myself and for those who have been massacred fighting for the freedom of our country, or simply for trying to flee the Island after exhausting all other avenues. It would be immoral of me to take my dollars to the despot and endure all the debasement I’ve mentioned above, while many, many others lose their children and their families trying to escape, such as those unfortunate ones on the March 13th tugboat. And I can’t forget all my friends who have died and been buried in this country, a country most generous, but not their country.
And, finally, what would my children and grandchildren think? They would be very confused, because since birth they’ve been hearing from me about the inhumane, uncivilized, unscrupulous and criminal regime that oppresses our country. Countless times they have heard about the reasons we had to leave our country and all we had to endure to be able to leave. As they grew up here, in this foreign land, during activities in our small clubs and organizations, they have witnessed the love we have for our country and how much we despise the tyrant and the status of servitude into which he has plunged our nation. In those patriotic events, step by step, year after year, they have learned about the cruelty of the Castro regime. And now, after gaining all this knowledge, if they were to see that I happily go for a visit to "take a few things to the family," to them it would mean that I’ve been lying all along. My own children and grandchildren would despise me for lying to them and betraying the principles of patriotism that I have instilled in them. To them, it would mean that I am in complicity with the tyrannical regime of Fidel Castro.
Yes, I want to, and someday I will go back to my country – but only when the time is right, and WITH DIGNITY!
By José Luis Fernández, Editor of The Voice of Free Cuba
English Version by Elena Treto.