Some years back I wrote a piece titled “Tirando Piedras” – Skipping Stones – about a young Cuban-American father’s conflict with burdening his young Americanito son with all that is Cuba. I think about that story all the time. Grapple with it.
While the handing down of our passions and memories about the real Cuba is something to be proud of, something that as a free Cuban one may feel duty bound to do, as parents, do we really want to place that onus on our progeny? Will instilling those intangible concepts of what the real Cuba was on our children be a hindrance to them somehow? Do we do them a disservice to inject that sorrow, that nostalgia, that seemingly overwhelming helplessness into their young souls? Children, after all, should be free of those responsibilities and worries.
And yet we do it. We pass along the baton of the past forward with one part patriotism, one part perseverance and two parts hope, never knowing whether our decision to sacrifice a little piece of our children’s souls will serve a greater and noble purpose. We live with that doubt of fruitless labor.
My doubts, however, have been alleviated today. The seeds my parents planted in me and which in turn I have tended to and watered and fertilized and fretted over all these years like a reluctant farmer have, indeed, begun to bear fruit.
I don’t see eye to eye with Yoani Sanchez on everything, but today she held my hand as we walked through the forest of fruit filled trees:
I’ve found a Cuba outside of Cuba, I told a friend a few days ago. He laughed at my play on words, thinking I was trying to create literature. But no. In Brazil, a septuagenarian excitedly gave me a medal of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. “I have not been back since I left in 1964,” she confirmed as she handed me this little gem that had belonged to her mother. During my stay in Prague, a group of compatriots living there seemed to be more aware of what was happening in our country than many who vegetate, inside it, in apathy. Amid the tall buildings of New York a family invited me to their house and their grandmother made a “coconut flan” in the style of our traditional cuisine, so damaged on the island by the shortages and scarcities.
Our diaspora, our exile, is conserving Cuba outside of Cuba. Along with their suitcases and the pain of distance, they have preserved pieces of our national history that were deleted from the textbooks with which several generations have been educated or rather, raised to be mediocre. I’m rediscovering my own country in each of these Cubans dispersed around the world. When I confirm what they have really accomplished, the contrast with what official propaganda tells me about them leaves me with an enormous sadness for my country. For all this human wealth that we have lost, for all this talent that has had to wash up outside our borders and for all the seeds that have germinated in other lands. How did we allow one ideology, one party, one man, to have felt the “divine” power to decide who could or could not carry the adjective “Cuban”?
Now I have proof that they lied to me, they lied to us. Nobody has had to tell me, I can grasp it for myself on seeing all this Cuba that is outside of Cuba, an immense country that they have been safeguarding for us.