“I have another homeland, the homeland of my dreams” – Reinaldo Arenas
HAVANA TIMES — On March 11, 2015, the Cuban government officially ceased to consider me a citizen of my native country. That’s right, I am now a citizen of nowhere, something along the lines of a tropical Palestinian, someone devoid of a country that represents them for all official purposes (though I doubt the island’s government would have offered me any aid anyways).
I lost my nationality gradually. I arrived in Ecuador in March of 2013. Then, I had the intention of visiting Cuba for New Year’s, but the job I had at the time didn’t offer me a vacation until after a year of work. In 2014, I was hired to teach a class at the Guayaquil University for the Arts. The job was all promises: they told me I’d be hired for three years, but they kept me for only 6 months.
August of 2014 came along and, disillusioned with the job market, I started a business that only now begins to yield its first fruits – but not quite enough to allow me to pay the 120 dollars the Cuban embassy charges me for extending the validity of my passport for only 3 months. On top of that, I would then have to pay for the extremely expensive ticket to Cuba.
Another reason I decided to lose my nationality is a clause that appears on the embassy form, which requires me to send a letter to Cuba’s Intelligence Department (DIE) explaining the reason, or reasons, I haven’t gone back to Cuba in two years. Reading this, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth and was assailed by the feeling of being a child (a feeling I haven’t been able to shake to this day). One day, the DIE and all other Cuban government institutions will have to apologize to Cuban citizens for all of the pain and hard work they’ve made us go through.
On the Sunday before March 11, I made the hard decision while chatting with someone on the Facebook page “Cubans in Ecuador.” Though a friend was willing to lend me the 120 dollars, following the old maxim that “one swallow does not make a summer”, I decided to be true to myself and refuse to accept the humiliation of having someone decide whether I could continue to be Cuban or not (and spare myself the risk of losing the 120 dollars, in the event Havana turned down my petition).
Another good reason is that I simply cannot imagine my fingers typing a letter to an anonymous DIE official – or anyone equally undeserving of my troubles – to explain the reasons I haven’t been able to travel to Cuba in two years. They are my own, personal reasons, with all that they entail.
This decision deprives me of the right to inherit my parents’ home, built with their own sweat and blood so that I would have a place of my own in the future. I know that there are no guarantees in this world. The worst part is knowing how sad my decision makes my parents.
I recall how, in the 80s, when I was a child, my father, who is still a communist, used to tell me that, by the year 2000, we would be the Japan of Latin America. The old man was right in some sense: today, Cuban cities resemble Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. In contrast to Japanese citizens back then, we Cubans still have no hopes of ever living in a country that we do not have to leave in order to realize our dreams.
Today, I have decided that being Cuban is much more than traveling to the island every two years, or meeting at Quito’s La California park the occasional Sunday to chew the fat among Cubans – gatherings I have sometimes been tempted to attend. But no, I know what I look for in Cuba isn’t there, that those meetings are well beneath my ambitions.
As of today, I will begin to unlearn Cuba’s national anthem, and it will become impossible to have a Cuban flag near me. In fact, no such flags should exist, as they are the weapons that nationalists use to divide the world’s people, in a world where everyone should treat one another like brothers.
I take full responsibility for everything that this decision involves and I choose to stick to the Cuba of folk musicians, preferably those of old, like Sindo and Manuel Corona, the Cuba of son and salsa music, the literature of Alejo Carpentier, the compositions of Maestro Lecuona, the paintings of Wilfredo Lam, the poetry of Rolando Escardo, the songs of Bola de Nieve, and I ditch the popular Cuban traditions that have contributed to our current misfortunes so much. Everything else is too much of a burden for me – I pass it on to whoever’s interested.