Earlier this week, Punt de Vista ran this “Letter from a young man who has left (Cuba).” Written in Spanish, it was a response to a an open letter titled “Letter to a young person who is leaving,” which was published in Cuban state-run media.
Here’s an English version from Translating Cuba:
Dear Rafael Hernández:
I have read with great interest your “Letter to a young man who is leaving.” I feel it applies to me, because two years ago I left Cuba, I’m 28 years old and I live in Pomorie, a spa city situated in the east of Bulgaria. The reason why I write to you is to try to explain to you my stance as a young Cuban emigrant. Without solemnities nor absolute truths, because if leaving my country has taught me anything, it’s discovering that such truths do not exist.
Maybe some of those who have left in the last few years (there are thousands of us) are clear about the moment they decided to do it. Not me. Mine was progressive, almost without my realizing it. It began with that oh-so-Cuban resource that is the complaint. Trifling, perhaps. About what isn’t available, about what has not come, about what happens, about what doesn’t happen, about not knowing. Or not being able to.
You say that the country exerts a great effort, that there is an embargo. And I respond to you that there is also a government that takes fifty years to make decisions on behalf of all Cubans. And if we have reached this point, it would be healthiest to admit that it has failed, or was unable, or didn’t want to do things differently. For whatever reason. Because its failure is also full of reasons. And instead of digging in with its historical figures in the Council of State, it should give way to those who come after.
Rafael, it’s very frustrating for a young person of my age to see that 50 years have passed in Cuba without producing a generational change-over because the government has not allowed it. And I’m not talking about giving the power to me, as a 28-year-old. I am talking about those 40-, 50- or even 60-year-old Cubans who have never had the chance to decide.
Because today’s people who are of that age and who hold positions of responsibility in Cuba have not been trained to make decisions, but rather to approve them. They are not leaders, they are officials. And that includes everyone from ministers to the delegates of the national assembly. They are part of a vertical system that does not provide room so that they can exercise the autonomy that corresponds with their positions. Everything is a consultation. And contrary to the old the saying: instead of asking for pardon, everyone would rather ask for permission.
You say that in my country one can vote and be elected to a position from age 16. And that the presence of young delegates has diminished from the 80s until now. You even warn me that if we continue on like this, there will be fewer young people who vote and therefore fewer who are eligible. And I ask you: what purpose does my vote serve? What can I change? What have the delegates of the national assembly done to spark my interest in them?
Let’s be honest, Rafael, and I believe that you are in your letter, so I also want to be honest in mine, we both know that the national assembly, as it is conceived, only serves to pass laws unanimously. It is ironic to call an institution that meets one week a year an “assembly.” Three or four days in the summer and three or four days in December. And during those days it limits itself to approving the mandates from the Council of State and of its President, who is the one who decides what happens and what doesn’t happen in the country. Sadly, I cannot vote for this president. And I’m not sure I would want to do so.
A few days ago I heard Ricardo Alarcón confess to a Spanish reporter that he doesn’t believe in Western democracy “because the citizens are only free the day they vote, the rest of the time the parties do what they want…” Even if that were the case, which it is not (at least not all the time, and not in every democracy), he would recognize that since I was born, in 1984, voters in the United States, for instance, have had seven days of freedom (one every four years) to change their president.
Read the rest of the letter (in English) here.
See the letter in Spanish here.