Ana is a survivor. A person who gave up her youth and future for her family. There had been opportunities to flee to freedom and a better life but her family always tied her to a land so arid that she is always thirsty for information, knowledge, spirituality. Everything she wants is forbidden. She languishes in the darkness collecting old magazine clippings from better times and new ones smuggled from abroad. She escapes as much as she can from the hostile environment, letting her mind drift away with the music of old records.
She loyally writes to her friends, most of them abroad. She waits for their replies with juvenile anxiety. Reading about life abroad, where people can make decisions, take responsibility and command of their lives and forge their own futures, is enough. She lives through her friends. But her life fluctuates between letters. Sometimes the long awaited replies never arrive. Not because her friends stop writing, but because even the right to receive a letter is under the control of the forces that regulate her world.
Over the many years, her family has gotten smaller and her world continues to fall apart. Recently, after a long silence, I received one of her letters. "A few days ago I began to write you but it was so depressing that I stopped. Now, I'm trying again but it'll be the same. I've grown, and I try to lift my spirit, but, why deny the dark reality of living in this country? I have a sense of humor but I can not write those letters I used to write in the past. Now it's impossible. When you read the reality I'm going to tell you, don't think I am a pessimist or that I'm asking for pity. I just want for you to know the reality, that, of course, you can not imagine.
"It's just as when the Jews outside Nazi Germany couldn't begin to imagine how the ones in concentration camps could live in the midst of so much barbarism. But, there is a difference. The Jews were taken by trains and trucks to concentration camps, and here, by remaining in your house you are in your own concentration camp. We feel anguish from the time we wake up, although, even while sleeping a Cuban's mind is filled with worry. Sadness, depression and hopelessness have tormented us for 38 years. The Jews were lucky that their suffering ended after 13 years. Here the pace is slow and agonizing, and apparently without end, making it even more excruciating and diabolical.
"No one escapes the agony and worries of how you are going to survive and barely meet the most basic necessities. There are things that I avoid doing to save my energy. I have been eating one meal a day, mainly at night. By one o'clock the next day I feel very hungry, and it's the same every day. In my case I feel hunger, anguish and rage at seeing how my body and my skin are deteriorating as malnutrition sets in and the neuritis affects my eyesight and the movement of my legs.
"Cubans can't think of buying a pair of shoes, or some clothing, or a bottle of perfume because we have to save to buy US dollars for the bare essentials. A bar of soap, detergent, deodorant, some food and rent. From my miserable salary, I have to pay 22 pesos for each dollar. So my salary is about seven dollars a month. I'm not the only one in this situation. How can a family with children survive? Well, they have to steal things at their job and try to sell them in the black market.
"There is a new breed of Cuban male now that hangs out at foreigners-only hotels, especially the Capri. They sell themselves to male foreigners for $US20 and $US40, depending on the 'favor.' Isn't that revolting and degrading? That's in addition to the already existing female prostitutes. Everything is depressing and filthy. There are no scruples. The image of the Cubans gets lower and lower as the days go by. There are no values. Any foreigner who ventures to Cuba is seen as a king, just because of his dollars.
"My faith keeps me going but I'm a human being and it's terrible to feel hunger and weakness in your body and sadness in your soul. I don't find any food bad anymore, even watery coffee is fine. I apologize for this depressing letter, but I am writing it so you won't be fooled by Castro and his friends abroad. Here, everything is getting worse. When I was little and saw the horrors of the concentration camps in the Soviet Union in articles in Bohemia magazine, I felt horror and solidarity with their suffering. But who was going to tell me that my people and I were going to suffer the same fate in the hands of Castro and his brother? I'm not asking for pity, I am only writing the red - now colorless - truth because this regime doesn't even have color! This regime is made up of the worst of capitalism and the cruelties of Socialism-Fidelism. Love, Ana."
Ana is a survivor, but for how long?
Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton