Romeo, Juliet and the Cuban Revolution

By Repatriado

Photo: Enrique Gonzalez Santaballa

HAVANA TIMES — I am the luckiest man in the world because I already knew who I was going to spend the rest of my life with when I was 15 years old, but the Revolution’s policies didn’t make it easy for me… This is my story.

It was midday when I saw her sitting under the ceiba tree, where we had our Military Preparation class at the boarding school (1), crying. Even though we were in the same class, we hadn’t spoken to each other, but something pushed me to that day, her tears were too beautiful.

She was crying because she had just broken up with her boyfriend, I tried to console her and our passion for books created a connection between us, just a friendship in the beginning. We read “Dangerous Liaisons” together and it led us to write an unnecessary but memorable series of letters to each other where she was the Marquise de Merteuil and I, of course, was the Vicomte de Valmont. I immediately broke up with the other girl I was with as the Marquise and I fell head over heels in love.

When we met each other, we were very different; she was a popular beauty and half-rocker from Vedado, I was a soul-searching and closed boy from Guanabacoa who was a little hung-up because I felt out of place in that school of elite children.

Our school was one of the best, it had a director who was famous for the slaps that some students and parents had given him, but he insisted on being a son of a bitch and he kept things in order, the teaching was good and work in the fields was horrible. As I was the Head of the Dorm (2), I was exempt from doing agricultural work, but I did love watching her come back in the afternoons covered in earth and completely exhausted and sunburnt.

When we finished 11th grade, a resolution, which has more weight than a law, was passed down which in Cuba and as they needed teachers, they had decided that those who finished 12th grade at our school could only opt to study teaching degrees at university, which nobody wanted because being a teacher in Cuba is a punishment.

Photo: Federico Borobio

With luck and gifts, her mother managed to get her transferred to another school as she had always wanted to be a doctor, I, without luck and without Her, had to stay on. Our relationship couldn’t bear the distance, we tried, but it was hard to do at our immature 16 years, we could only see each other 2 days out of every 15 when we received leave (3) from our respective schools.

We separated, it was during the time of that depressing song by Juan Gabriel that used to go “don’t cling to the impossible”, God knows how much I cried when that was played over and over again on the loudspeakers.

She became a doctor like she wanted to, I refused to become a teacher and I spent my two years of Military Service. She rebuilt her life without me, every time I left my unit, I would pass underneath her house hoping to see her leaning out on the balcony, as I was embarrassed to knock on her door.

After a while, I began to study Economy at university and I had other relationships of course, but I only looked for her in every person I went out with and I didn’t feel what I felt with her with anyone else, but I couldn’t do much else so I lived as best I could. I became a Freemason and an Austrian brother helped me to leave this country without a future. I left for hell when I was barely 22 years old, but of course, I went to say goodbye to her before I left and my heart broke to think that I might not ever see her again.

Four years passed by before I returned to Cuba for a visit. I was already married to a Spanish woman, but my heart was with her, like it had always been, so the second thing I did was go to see her. I found her married and pregnant, she still smiles today when she remembers the face I made when I saw her, I only remember she told me: “this is really screwed up now.”

Years kept passing by, I had a really good marriage and my European life prospered quickly thanks to my luck of having good friends and working hard. I managed a medium-size company before I was 27 years old, I was the youngest Venerable Master in Spain and the only Latin American one. My wife and I bought a beautiful apartment in a private apartment complex, I was finishing a Psychology degree at the UNED (4)… In short, everything was going well, except for my heart.

I was traveling to Cuba every year as all of my family continued to be there. On one of those trips, we ran into each other on 21st and 8th streets in Vedado, she was pushing the baby in its stroller, we greeted each other, I said something funny about the baby boy and we continued walking on, each on our own path. As my brother was with me at the time, I remember telling him, “there goes the love of my life.”

Two years later, we ran into each other again. She was divorced, we spoke, we went out, we kissed, we made love and for me, it was like waking up from a horrible nightmare and living again.

As she was a doctor, she couldn’t travel, she had to ask for authorization from the Ministry of Public Heath and then spend at least five years in a crappy position waiting to see if they granted her permission or not. I wasn’t willing to live five years like that so I jumped on a plane back to Spain, I left the company, I began to file my divorce papers with the woman who was my wife for 7 years and as I had really screwed her over, I left her the apartment in her name. I then returned to Cuba with the little savings I had.

Foto: Francis Chow

All of my family screamed blue murder and nobody supported me, I was committing a clear act of stupidity, and what if the relationship didn’t work out? And what if we have changed too much? And what if it was just an impulse? How was I going to make a living?

On top of all of that, Cuba had withdrawn my residency, I was living in my house illegally, I didn’t have an identity card and I couldn’t get one, they took away my passport, I was arrested twice for 48 hours at the Immigration office trying to make me leave, they threatened to deport me, that it was better for me to go or they wouldn’t let me come back to Cuba; I told them I didn’t have any money for the ticket and they let me go again, but I lived with the real fear of being kicked out of Cuba and then not being allowed to enter again.

Two years after that legal limbo, suffering MININT’s harassment, I guess it was out of exhaustion that they finally accepted my Repatriation and they reinstated my Cuban status.

With the burden she felt of the immense responsibility she held in my decision, she spent the first two months not knowing what to do, I nearly started praying, but I didn’t, she finally made up her mind and we began to live together in her small apartment with her son, her mother and her grandmother.

Today, her boy is like my son and we also have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter and our marriage has been perfect, I was right, she is the love of my life.

We have nothing to thank the Revolution for.
——

NOTES:

The title is because when we met, she was reading “Romeo, Juliet and Darkness”, a novel by Jiri Weiss.

1- The “Beca” or boarding schools were conceived by Fidel, which combined studying, agricultural work and state tutoring. Located in isolated, rural areas, students lived there at the boarding school. In the ‘90s, if you wanted to study at university, you had to spend three years there first. It’s a semi-prison where violence and sex reign and it drove many teenagers to commit suicide. I was left starving, we were given cooked linden tea and a lettuce leaf for breakfast.

2- The Dorms were where we slept at the school and it was a place that was organized by the law of the strongest, the weakest were constantly bullied and abused.

3- The authorization was for 48 hours every 12 days which allowed you to go home.

4- A Spanish university

2 thoughts on “Romeo, Juliet and the Cuban Revolution

  • That is quite a powerfully romantic story! I think it could be the basis for a novel.

    Reply
  • I agree this is a great Cuban version of Romeo and Julieta

    Reply

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