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01/06/14 - Havana Times - Cuba, a Provisional Country 

Ernesto PĂ©rez Chang

55 anniversary. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES - Of the feelings that assail most Cubans today when they
confront our country's harsh, everyday reality, one of the most
devastating, in every sense of the word, is the feeling of transience.

No matter where you are, it isn't hard to come upon people of different
ages talking about their vision of the future, where Cuba figures simply as
the country they had the terrible misfortune of being born in and the place
they must get out of as soon as possible.

There is no longer any room for the doubts that, in a somewhat distant
past, retained previous generations of Cubans, who set their hopes in the
promise of positive change in the relationship between political power and
citizens.

Alarmed by the constant failures of a system that, in their eyes, trampled
the most intimate aspirations of their parents and grandparents, few are
those who freely opt to remain in the country, feeling that it demands an
immense commitment in exchange for a personal existence fraught with
restrictions and that it forces them to adopt veritable strategies of
duplicity, of sheer survival.

For such people, the world becomes a zone of repression and
self-repression, torn apart by the constant pressure between what one wants
to be and what one has to be, a world caught between desire and
convenience, beclouded by the devastating certainty that one is going
nowhere.

Born of similar feelings - disenchantment, hopelessness, apathy - the sense
of transience is one of the many passive resistance strategies people use
to adapt to a system with which they publicly or privately disagree.

The commonplaces we hear almost everyone repeat, phrases such as "when I
get out of here", "the day I manage to leave the country", "things are
different abroad", "things are impossible in Cuba", "don't forget we're in
Cuba, kiddo", "you'll have to leave the country to get anywhere", join the
chorus of similar pronouncements by those who continue to age and are
convinced Cuba's problems cannot be solved as long as ideological
commitments and the government's obstinacy prevail over common sense and
curtail the political freedoms of citizens.

The only prospect for change, at the personal or family level, that those
who have been invaded by the sense of transience see, entails giving up on
the idea of living in the place of their birth and seeking a means of
escape or an act of salvation. It is frightening to see how these attitudes
become generalized, but it is far more disquieting to realize they are not
an option people choose but the reaction of people who feel cornered.

A closed area for self employed venders. Foto: Juan Suarez

It is not a choice between Cuba's "supervised freedoms" and the freedoms
felt to exist in a place beyond the seas. It is a question of ending a
protracted and senseless imprisonment, through the possibility of choosing
which they have been denied through pretexts of every kind.

A possibility, to be sure, which presupposes that a veritable financial
miracle will grace their lives. Before, the sense of transience consisted
in the idea of leaving only for a while, so as to return after favorable
political changes had taken place. Now, the feeling is a final and
definitive decision, the radical determination of people who, on seeing the
doors of their country close behind their backs, feel that they are putting
behind a prison term and that the time has come to bury the past deep in
the ground, in order, perhaps, to resurface like a human being and not as
the cog in the machine of a failed social experiment with no apparent end
in sight.

Seen through the prism of our feelings of transience, the idea of returning
to the place of our birth will always be associated to the innumerable,
negative images of our past and, above all else, to the fear of once again
enduring isolation and the compunction to renounce, once and for all, to
the personal freedoms secured elsewhere, so as to be condemned to a life of
survival, endurance and silence. Such fears can take hold of any human
being, whether they have lived in Cuba or not - it is the fear of
voluntarily submitting oneself to a world of nightmares or, worse still, to
a world of death.

To a considerable extent, the place of our birth is a place where phrases
such as "this is forbidden", "don't say that", "you best keep quiet",
"don't work yourself up" and "not now" resonate. The feeling of
impossibility slowly delineates the contours of our personal space, to the
point that our individuality degenerates into submission and our
aspirations for personal realization are displaced and postponed.

Most Cubans sense this reality and, denied the possibility of revolt, of
disobedience, live in a provisional, transitory world. Everything, from
family to friends, from the country as a whole to one's personal
belongings, culture, language, ideology - everything is fleeting for those
who await the moment in which the country of their birth will disappear
irreversibly on the horizon.

If they ever return, it would be to find that other unfamiliar and
artificial place they were once denied, the country in the glass display
they saw, not only in tourism magazines, but in official speeches as well.
The country they dreamed of living in and enjoying, provided their feelings
of transience didn't make them blot out that brightly-colored abomination,
manufactured, not to sustain the economy, but to sell the world the image
of a Cuba inaccessible to those devoid of financial means, that is, to the
majority.

On the balcony. Photo: Juan Suarez

A while ago, I ran into a high school friend. I hadn't seen him in more
than twenty years. After giving him a hug, I asked him the customary
questions: how he was doing and where he had been. He glossed over more
than two decades of his life in a few minutes.

He'd worked very hard, he'd "struggled", he told me, and only needed a bit
more money to leave the country "for good", as he stressed with boundless
joy. I asked him if he had other plans, if he'd gotten married and had
children. He replied only with a smile, as though the answer to the
question was just too obvious.

I understood, particularly when he told me the story of his many let-downs
again, that now his mind was set on leaving the country, to be able to do
what he has postponed doing for so long.

"Here, you accomplish very little, maybe nothing, hell, you know," he told
me, ending his verdict with these words: "Cuba is a provisional country,
bro."

The words have been going around my mind for days, robbing me of sleep. My
friend has the same age I do: forty-two.


Original Source / Fuente Original: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=101035


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