Don’t Tell Dad, I’m Going to Cuba

I Lied to my father, told him we were on Cape Cod when, in fact, we were bouncing around the battered streets of La Havana in our friend José’s 1953 Chevrolet Deluxe, the one with the new Toyota engine but no working gauges on the dash. Nothing about Cuba is easy. Not the politics, not the crazy convertible peso and definitely not the getting there. But as a Cuban-American trying to connect with the last twigs of our family tree in Havana, the biggest obstacle I faced was my father’s disapproval. My working-class parents originally supported the revolution, my mother even sold bonds and collected medicine for the rebels. But after it triumphed, politics became the center of life, and new society demanded daily doses of vigilantism, denunciations, repression of the self. My parents muzzled themselves, applied for permission to leave country, waited years for it to come, and finally, in 1967, immigrated to United States. Now my 80-year-old father, like many older exiles, vehemently criticizes Cuban-Americans who return. Papi sees each dollar, bar of soap and laser printer we bring back to our families as power flowing into Castro brothers’ hands. When I told him I was considering a trip to Cuba, he fought hard to dissuade me, calling me daily from his home in New Hampshire. “Don’t you see you’re keeping those bastards in power? Cuban-Americans threw $4 billion at that economy last year! You’re legitimizing their repression! After all we did to get you out, now you want to go back?” I did. Since I’d left as a 6-year-old, I’d been back only once, in 1999. I wanted to know my cousins. And now that the Obama administration had loosened some travel restrictions, I wanted my husband and son to see where I was from. For months, Papi and I argued on the phone, over kitchen tables, side by side in cars. When the Cuban P-11 visa I’d applied for last April finally arrived in August, I cooked up a lie to spare him, myself, some pain. If Papi asked for us, I told 27 members of our family, say we’re on Cape Cod, out of cellphone range. We flew to Havana on one of the charters brings hundreds of thousands of my cohort to the island every year. Immediately, my cousin Patricia and I fell into the kind of five-day-long conversation we’d spun on my last trip. My Jewish husband and son folded into her buzzing household like natives; in no time they were shirtless in the 95-degree heat, following the other men out to the front porch to sip café from tiny cups and listen to the chants of street vendors selling sunglasses, “with bifocals or without!” I stayed inside with Patricia’s kids, facing the fan, building a model of solar system with Diego and sewing a princess doll for Verónica. Embargo-busting love was in the air (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

2 Responses to Don’t Tell Dad, I’m Going to Cuba

  1. In a country of limits, it is the restriction that many Cubans hate the most: the exit visa that the government requires for travel abroad, discouraging all but the favored or fortunate from leaving the island. Now that bureaucratic barrier is on its way out. The Cuban government announced on Tuesday that it would terminate the exit visa requirement by Jan. 14, possibly letting many more Cubans depart for vacations, or forever, with only a passport and a visa from the country where they plan to go. The new policy — promised by President Raúl Castro last year, and finally announced in the Communist Party newspaper — represents the latest significant step by the Cuban government to answer demands for change from Cubans, without relinquishing control. Like some recent economic openings in Cuba, it allows the government to carefully calibrate the flow of change. Even Cubans with passports will need to have them renewed, and the law says that applicants can be prevented from leaving for several reasons, including “national security”; enough, experts say, to keep dissidents from traveling. Cuba’s doctors, scientists and other professionals, who have long faced tight restrictions on movement, might be held back as well because the new policy includes a caveat allowing the government to limit departures to “preserve the human capital created by the Revolution.” And yet, the new migration law also gives Cubans latitude to stay abroad longer, letting them remain outside the country for two years, and possibly longer, before losing their rights to property and benefits like health care — an increase from 11 months under the current policy. Analysts say the government is encouraging a larger class of Cubans to travel, partly so that they can earn money elsewhere and return, injecting capital into the island’s moribund economy. The benefits of such an arrangement are already clear: remittances to the island have grown to an estimated $2.3 billion a year, from $1 billion in 2004. But whether the new law will create a temporary or permanent mass exodus, Cubans and experts say, will be determined by how many people have the means and passports to leave, and which countries welcome them. “The decision to lift the exit visa is a significant one for several reasons, although like most of the new reforms, it depends a great deal on how it is implemented,” said Robert Pastor, professor of international relations at American University. “Nonetheless, by removing a state barrier to leave, this reform could lead to a large outflow — many of whom will eventually want to come to the United States — or it could begin to allow a circular flow of people that could enhance the economic opening of the island.” The Cuban government’s earlier steps toward a market economy have mostly fallen short of expectations. There are now hundreds of thousands of small business owners on the island of 11 million people, but not nearly the numbers the government initially said it needed to cut back on the nation’s bloated public payrolls. Experts say fears of instability have often hampered the push for a rapid economic opening, leading celebrated new laws — allowing for property sales and entrepreneurship, for example — to be later larded with restrictions and taxes. Cubans in Havana and Miami say they are convinced the same dynamic will apply to travel. They mostly greeted the end of the exit visa after 51 years with their usual stance of “we’ll see” (…..)

  2. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Raul Castro is not a communist fool. He has learned a lot about US capitalism and the power of money. After eliminating the (useless) exit visa, Cubans have ONLY to show income proof in order to get a foreign visa.The only problem is that average Cubans make US$ 30 in monthly salary. The question is: how a guy making $30/month prove he can afford a 30 day stay in sunny Miami to a stern looking American consulate official? or, perhaps the mother country Spain will be more accommodating? Cuba 2012 of Raul Castro continues to be a Caribbean psychedelic version of Hotel California: Relax, said the night man. We are programmed to receive.You can check-out any time you like. But you can never leave!


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