Despite the fear it gives me to write these emails (which I’m sure are read by them) I have decided to do it, confident that you won’t divulge my name, if the story seems interesting to you.
A few weeks ago I visited Cuba with my boyfriend who’s a foreigner. Among all the things we set out to do was to go to Cayo Coco or Cayo Largo, because I’d heard about how beautiful the beaches are, and also because finally we Cubans are allowed to visit them. My boyfriend is crazy about boats, ships, and in fact here he has one we go out on occasionally. We saw in an advertisement at the travel agency the opportunity to go out on a catamaran at Cayo Largo and dive, to see the bottom of the sea… finally…
We made our reservations at the Hotel Nacional for a very good price for Cayo Largo, a really good package, including airport transfers, the plane ticket, everything to the cayo and back. The catamaran we would have to pay for separately but we didn’t care. Thank God the person who was making the reservation thought to ask me if I was Cuban (my accent already makes them doubt it at times, especially when I realize they treat me better in those places when they think I’m a foreigner and they don’t look at me like I’m a prostitute). I answered yes, I’m Cuban, but I’ve lived abroad for some time, so what’s the problem. He said, “Ah, but if you’re Cuban you can’t go on the catamaran, you can watch it from the sand.” Do I have to agree that I can experience Cayo Coco without going in the catamaran? I’m accustomed to the bad service there, but I didn’t think they would go so far.
Maybe this story isn’t interesting enough for publication, but I want to share with someone that I felt humiliated, that in my own country (because it’s mine, too) I can’t go in a catamaran.
I’m not telling you all the discrimination I faced there because of my nationality, and what shocked me even more was for being with a foreigner, when you walk with another Cuban you almost don’t notice it, or worse, you restrict yourself from doing things you can’t do and no one asks you anything. My boyfriend had a lot of questions and I could only offer a few answers: Because that’s the way it is, because I can’t go in, well imagine, it’s always been like this.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.