Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn’t really leave Cuba, it’s impossible to leave somewhere that you’ve never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn’t reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I’m living in Ecuador, but please, don’t believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in “the Cuba of my dreams.

Returning to Cuba

“Stunned, confused, powerless, those who live far away from their homeland only have the necessary strength to be useful. This is how we live: Who out of us doesn’t know how we live? We don’t want to go there!: As cruel as this life is, that life is even crueler.” – Jose Marti

Alfredo Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES — Last July, after three and a half years, I returned to Cuba to find my country three and a half years older, dirty and backward.

I couldn’t have received a better welcome, my friend that came to get me had hired a retired guy who uses his rundown Lada car as a taxi so he can live or, to put it another way, survive.

A strange and contradictory man who defends the socialist system but doesn’t believe in the possibility that another Castro will be able to lead the country.

When I got to the house where I’d spent that night, there wasn’t any electricity… how strange? The next day, neighbors were saying that it was because of a fallen electricity post.

You must know that I haven’t left Quito in a year and a half, a cold city even in summer, and it was like coming back to Cuba in 1994 when blackouts stopped people from sleeping because of the heat. I had to have a shower a couple of times that night just to doze off a little.

I went out to eat something at “Los Afortunados”, a cafe located in front of an anti-imperialist bandstand that continues to survive four years on, and even though I ate well, you don’t have the same feeling today that you did when it was first set up.

The following day, I went to buy bread from the bakery on Calazada and 18th Streets in Vedado where they’d managed to achieve the impossible, make bread worse than they did four years ago. I decided never to buy it ever again, “they sell the flour and everything else on the side,” a neighbor told me.

Four days into my trip, I traveled to my native Santiago, if I can call what I did “traveling”. The bus stations were a living hell, so I went to the working-class neighborhood in San Miguel del Padron and left on the highway.

If you can call that a highway; I was lucky to travel on different buses until I got to Las Tunas.

There, the reality of the Cuban East began to take over, the same one that made independence wars begin out there.

I traveled to Bayamo on a truck, a horrible truck, where the temperature exceeded 35° Celsius inside.

In Bayamo, I took another truck at midday to Santiago, where the temperature exceeded 40°, or at least that’s what it seemed like to me.

About to pass out, in a space where I couldn’t sit or stand properly, I stretched out my arm holding ten pesos and through the truck’s window, somebody sold me an ice cream which tasted like heaven. I think it was the only thing that stopped me from passing out.

I arrived in Santiago and although the city had been touched up since the fatal hurricane Sandy (2012) had struck, people appeared to be battered, with dirty teeth, those people who at least had teeth, always sweaty, and sometimes smelling bad.

My country, if you can call this island a country, has definitively lost touch with reality, it has gone astray, I don’t know through what new loophole in psychoanalysis and, undoubtedly, suffers from a disease that still hasn’t been studied.

The economic and moral destruction of the Cuban people has been a slow and especially cruel process, which has been perfectly premeditated by those who have led the country for the last 57 years. There’s no doubt about it, Cubans are waiting, but they don’t know what it is they’re waiting for exactly.

A psychological gap, my fellow countrymen are living today a more polished version of the Stockholm Syndrome, leaving the country for economic reasons, but not political ones, putting everything on the line. And they’re not aware of the fact that they could start a business with just 2,000 USD outside of Cuba.

How lucky the tormentors in my country are, admired by their victims even while they sharpen their axes. New mandates that have been established as a result of the 7th Communist Party congress prevent the Cuban people from accumulating wealth.

The only positive feeling I got out of my journey was to confirm that the Cuban people’s entrepreneurial character is still intact, with a zest comparable to other citizens of the world.

In Havana, I saw restaurants such as “La Flauta Magica”, “VipHavana”, “Versus”, “La Catedral”, “La Chucheria” and the “Saraos” nightclub, all with the quality and comfort of a top world class joint, and I don’t just say that as someone who has hardly traveled, I’ve heard people who travel the world over with wads of money in their pockets say it too.

That was the only positive thing I took away from my trip, the only bit of hope left in my country and which can be used for something similar in the future, God willing in the near future, although to tell you the truth, the Castros’ power in Cuba remains intact.

It’s a sad reality for a country that can’t wait any longer, that urgently needs a better life for its people.

Even though modern life may be complex and difficult, it’s still better, without a doubt, than the miserable life that is eating away at my people who have to struggle to find potatoes or have little hope of gobbling down a bit of meat.

  • Gerard Matthews

    I can feel the pain and passion in these words. Cuba deserves better than what it certainly appears to the outsider, it is as if the corrupt are succeeding in spreading corruption and the ordinary Honest Cuban citizens are being denied the opportunity of living an honest and decent existence!

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    The final paragraph is a wonderful summary providing an appropriate conclusion.
    Alfredo Fernadez’s article has a particular relevance because his absence commenced three and a half years ago, coinciding with the much discussed but none defined period of “change” supposedly taking place in the island. As an obviously qualified observer Fernandez found only further deterioration. That is the reality which the enthusiastic promoters of “socialismo” and supporters of the Castro dictatorship don’t wish to admit.

  • N.J. Marti

    Change has already arrived. Everyday life is harder versus better mostly because Venezuela is unable to gift Cuba the same amount of petroleum. The biggest change is the attitude, people are much more likely to question the bag of words they are fed on wonders of socialismo. The Fidel magic is over. Pragmatism requires changes to the system.