Dispatch from the Balcony of Disillusionment
So, here I am on the sister island, Puerto Rico. I'm here for the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference.
And this is the ocean view promised by my hotel.
Disillusionment. Desengaño. Ha!
I suppose I can't sue for breach of contract. If I look real hard , I can actually see a narrow sliver of sea, and a palm tree too.
It was 36 degrees this morning in Guilford, Connecticut. The trees are about half bare at this point. They will be totally bare in a week or so. It is now 85 degrees in San Juan.
Floridian exiles have a hard time understanding what it is like to suddenly find yourself back in the tropics, to be bombarded with reminders of a life in a never-ending summer.
I was feeling alright -- even after stepping out onto the Balcony of Disillusionment -- because San Juan seemed nothing more than a weird version of Miami. Nothing reminded me of Cuba.
Then I stepped out to the hotel's front yard. I saw and heard the waves, smelled the sea, watched the waves crash below an old Spanish fortress. The fortress did it to me, pushed me over the edge.
No this is not Miami.
Cuba is no longer just a set of images in my memory. Cuba is real. It really exists.
And what did I feel? To be honest, it was not nostalgia. It was rage. Blinding, white-hot rage.
Waves like this still crash against a shoreline I once knew. But that shoreline is now the outer rim of Hell itself. The Devil stole it from me and from everyone I once loved, most of whom are now dead. Worst of all, the Devil had plenty of help from my fellow countrymen, and still gets as much help as he needs from many of those compatriotas and from millions of tourists.
Forgive, yes. It is required by the Almighty. Forget? Yeah, sometimes. It's easier to forget when those damn waves are far away, and there are no Spanish fortresses assaulting your senses. But here in San Juan it is harder to forget.
Thank God for the tostones at the bar. Each one of them was as big as the moon, each one perfectly crisp. And thank God for the lighting experts who know how to make palm trees look like avenging angels in the dark of night.