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    Never belonging – Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba

    Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba
    OPINIONMIGUEL DE LA TORRE | MARCH 28, 2017

    Returning to the land which witnessed my birth is always a gut-wrenching
    experience. Separation from my island has now been five times longer
    than Odysseus’ was from his. But unlike Odysseus, who was returning to a
    place he was familiar with, I am attempting to piece together some type
    of rootedness upon the shifting sands of my parents’ false memories (sí,
    porque los bichos no picaban, y los mangos eran más dulce; yes, because
    the bugs were not biting, and mangoes were sweeter).

    Every Cuban over a certain age lives with a particular trauma caused by
    the hardships of being a refugee. Homesickness for a place that was
    never home, mixed with nostalgia, romanticization and an
    unnaturally-taught hatred towards various actors blamed for our
    Babylonian captivity contributes to the trauma of not having a place, of
    not ever being able to visit one’s grandmother’s garden to eat mangos
    from its trees, nor enjoy the gentle sea breezes.

    By the rivers of Miami we sat and wept at the memory of La Habana. There
    on the palm trees we hung our conga drums. For there, those who stole
    our independence with gunboat diplomacy, asked us for songs. Those who
    forced on us the Platt Amendment demanded songs of joy. “Sing us one of
    the mambo songs from Cuba.” But how can we sing our rumba in a pagan
    land? If I forget you, mi Habana, may my right hand wither. May my
    tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do
    not consider la Habana mi mayor alegría. Remember, Yahweh, what the
    oppressors did. A blessing on him who seizes their infants and dashes
    them against the rock!

    As I stroll down el malecón, as I amble along calle Obispo, as I have a
    daiquiri en el Floridita, I observe. I randomly gaze at my surroundings,
    reflecting upon what I see, attempting to understand what occurs beneath
    the surface. In no specific order, here are some of my musings:
    – I notice many yuma lechers — old white men with young beautiful
    mulatas on their arms, planning to do to them what the embargo has done
    to the island.
    – I notice yumas rushing to see Cuba before it changes, before it is
    spoiled, fetishizing the misery and poverty of others, ignoring how much
    the people want change because they hunger.
    – I notice la buena presente, where the faces of tourism’s
    representatives have a light complexion, thus denying their darker
    compatriots lucrative tourists’ tips.
    – I notice how liberals, from the safety of first-world middle-class
    privilege, paint Cuba as some socialist paradise, ignoring how sexism
    and racism continues to thrive, along with a very sophisticated and
    not-so-well hidden classism connected to political power.
    – I notice how conservatives, with an air of superiority, paint Cuba
    with brushes which impose hues of oppression to color a portrait of
    repression ignorant of the survival mentality of a people fluent in
    doublespeak and sharp tongues of criticism.
    – I notice tourists who can’t salsa dancing in well-preserved streets
    while a block away from the merriment are inhabited buildings on the
    verge of collapsing.
    – I notice Trumpites insisting on removing the human rights violation
    splinter out of Cuba’s eye while ignoring the log of Border Patrol
    abuses against the undocumented, the log of black lives not mattering,
    the log of grabbing women by their ——-, paying them lower wages than men
    for the same job, the log of unthreading a safety net which keeps people
    alive, and all the other human rights violation logs firmly lodged in
    the USA’s eye.
    – I notice liberal yumas apotheosis of el Ché and Fidel, dismissing as
    gusanos the critiques of those and the surviving families who have suffered.
    – I notice the swagger of conservative yumas quick to dictate the
    conditions under which they will recognize someone else’s sovereignty,
    holding on to the self-conceived hegemonic birthright of empire.
    – I notice the false dichotomy created by bar stool pundits between
    ending the genocidal U.S. embargo and the need for greater political
    participation from the people. This is not an either/or issue; it’s a
    both/and.

    The most painful thing I notice is how I am not fully accepted aquí o
    allá — here or there. I am held in contempt and suspicion on both sides
    of the Florida Straits. Here, I’m too Cuban to ever be American, and
    there, I’m too American to ever be a Cuban. The trauma of which I speak
    is never belonging.

    As you contemplate these reflections, note I have again returned to la
    isla de dolor. Like Odysseus I am struggling against the gods who decree
    separation from the fantasy island I claim to love, an irrational love
    toward a place where I am neither welcomed nor truly belong. I close
    these reflections with that of another refugee, who also spent his life
    wandering the earth where there was no place he could call home or where
    he could rest his head. According to José Martí, “Let those who do not
    [secure a homeland] live under the whip and in exile, watched over like
    wild animals, cast from one country to another, concealing the death of
    their souls with a beggar’s smile from the scorn of free persons.”

    Source: Never belonging: Random reflections on my last visit to Cuba –
    Baptist News Global –
    baptistnews.com/article/random-reflections-on-my-last-visit-to-cuba/#.WNppUfmGP6Q

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