Monday, January 18, 2010

The Gunpowder!*

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

I have read the article in Bad Handwriting about the control of explosive substances in Cuba, and have remembered an anecdote from my teenage years that connects with much of what Regina Coyula is talking about.

When I was 18 I often went to the home of a friend--now his house is in Spain--and I spent the afternoons with him and his mother. It was a small family but with sad memories, they lived in one half of the house but the other half, the ground floor, had been confiscated in the first years of the Triumph of the Revolution.

My friend had just finished his Military Service and the atmosphere was festive, despite his scrawny body, evidence of years of malnutrition, militarization, and preparation for The War of The Whole People. We decided that to erase a slice of all the bad memories of green** we would do a general cleaning and toss out everything that belonged to the armed forces. We put our backs to the work, and in a few hours, two bags of uniforms, jugs, boxes and even papers were in the trash can on the corner.

The same night, while we were eating, an official from the National Revolutionary Police knocked on the door. After asking for our identity cards he interrogated us about our activities, harassed us a bit and had a coffee, confessing the object of his imperial visit: in the bags we'd tossed out they had found some boxes of bullets. My friend had to explain in detail how, after his firearms training, these bullets hadn't worked because they were duds and he put them into his backpack, where he forgot all about them. His mother had to sign an absurd paper, the contents of which I'm incapable of remembering, a kind of commitment to the security of the fatherland.

Before the man finally said his last in the interview-interrogation, we couldn't contain our curiosity: How had he found a little box of bullets in a bag inside a disgusting trash can on an obscure corner in Havana and how, on top of that, had he known that this bag had been tossed out by us? The cop replied with pride, "We have contacts everywhere, it was brought to us by one of our divers, be careful what you toss."

*Phrase from the Cuban cartoon "Elpidio Valdés"

*Obligatory Military Service

1 comment:

Humberto Capiro said...

"And I'll tell you quite frankly, where there's liberty, that's where your home is." "

Exchanging a PhD for freedom: Cuban immigrant embraces custodial job

"At the age of 65, Rafael Garcia roams the halls of Westlake High School, broom in hand. That's a far cry from the life he envisioned growing up in Cuba. "
""The ideas of my household, of my father and mother were transferred to me," Rafael Garcia said. "But at that time, I had a lot of active participation in the church. I went to church; I participated in activities and I went to mass and was involved in the church."

That behavior earned a young Garcia a trip to rural work camp.

"We cut cane," he said. "We cleaned the agricultural areas and all the the camp work, all the work that an agricultural laborer does, very hard work, you work morning to night."

The experience, which went on for two-and-a-half years, failed to make a dent in Garcia's church-going ways."

"When an agreement was reached between Cuba and the United States, allowing those who had been sent to work camps to leave the island nation for America, Garcia jumped at the chance.

At 7:00 AM, April 2, 1996, he gathered his wife and his 88-year-old mother and boarded a plane. The trip included stops in Cancun, Miami and Dallas before the Cubans landed at the airport in Austin.

The family knew no one in their new town, but Garcia quickly enrolled in Austin Community College. He learned English, but in order to work in his chosen field, he would need a thorough-going command of the language. The family needed money, though, and Garcia needed a job.

He found one at Goodwill Industries and later he and Victoria both found work at Westlake High School as custodians. They raised a son who in December earned his own Ph.D. in entomology. They also raised a happy life. From a home in South Austin, they relish that life.

"No one made us come; we wanted to come," Rafael Garcia said. "So then we had to overcome all the situations in front of us. I'm very happy and I'm very grateful to the government to be here.

"And I'll tell you quite frankly, where there's liberty, that's where your home is." "