Some days ago, we saw a heated debate about the petition that a number of renowned Cuban dissidents have made to the US government, calling for hardline measures that would bring about the economic collapse of the country and thus definitively remove the Castro brothers from power.
Alfredo Fernandez’s Diary
In Ecuador, I have conversed with people of different nationalities who have never set foot in Cuba but who believe they know the island better than I do, people who constantly refute everything I tell them about the country, and everything I claim to have experienced there. To them, I am at best exaggerating things and, at worst, lying.
I don’t know about you, but I still remember that game-show aired on Cuban television in the 1980s, “9550” (the exact number of kilometers separating Havana from Moscow), in which Yiqui Quintana, a sports commentator turned host, would give the top prizewinner a 15-day trip to the former Soviet Union.
Ever since his debut as a professional boxer in 2008, I have followed every match fought by Cuban pugilist Guillermo Rigondeaux (“Rigo”, as his fans call him), keeping a close eye on his prodigious, almost dizzying rise in the field, admiring the talent and courage he invariably shows in each fight.
Having left Cuba less than a month ago has proved a major revelation for me. Yes, because for a Cuban crossing the limits of the island for the first time, brings with it a peculiar significance to the trivial act of traveling in today’s world.
No dear Cuban readers, I’m not making a bad joke. What I’m saying is absolutely true. In the Ecuadorian Amazon there’s full Internet service. These days I’m living in Lago Agrio, the capital of the province of Sucumbios, near the Ecuadorian border with Colombia.
Just after the plane took off, a question came to my mind: When would I see this unusual island again? Then everything went black in the window beside my seat for three and a half hours, at least until the plane flew over the over the abundance of neon lights that illuminate any capital other than Havana.
As soon as I heard the news that the writer Angel Santiesteban will be going to prison for five years, what automatically came to mind were two of the many writers who had difficult relationships with “socialism”: the Cuban author of Antes que Anochezca (Before the Dawn), Reinaldo Arenas; and Poland’s Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote The Captive Mind.
An old man, rambling, and barely able to stand was what appeared before the cameras on the National Television News. What was left in the past was that invincible commander who constantly oozed testosterone through his pores.
“When I left Havana, I didn’t say goodbye to anybody” was a line from a song in my childhood. It continued with “…only to a little Chinese dog tagged along behind me.” I don’t know why, but ever since I was a kid and I heard that tune, I’d invariably be seized by an unjustified sadness.