It’s been more than twenty years since I visited my parents’ homeland. As Cubans we were raised to long for a forgotten time yet visible on the streets of La Habana. We’ve lived in an exile partly constructed of our own imagination; in a nostalgic ignorance composed by the anecdotes and skewed memories of our fathers.
I last visited Cuba in 1996 during a time called the “special period”. Those were years of great scarcity and instability following the collapse of the ruble and the Soviet Union in 1989. Today, however, in a post-Obama Cuba, our people see the future clearly beyond their hard fought revolution and daily hardships.
Space would not suffice here to go into great detail about the transformation taking place on the island, but what the eyes see the heart confirms. From words of love, encouragement, frustration and perseverance, comes understanding. From the humid heat, sweat and sun is forged the iron brow. Like the bronzed and black skin of my people are the beaten drums of progress. Laughter and music are everywhere, and they placate the mind no less than the anticipated taste of rum on the lips of a beautiful Cuban woman.
These things 45 can never take from us.
Many say the Cuban experiment is a failure. I know otherwise. Many of my generation may despise Cuba’s future because of what was lost to the past in misplaced anger and emotion. The throngs of U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, and the flow of money and goods resulting from the brief détente betray the ideology of current U.S policy towards Cuba. As I survey my long discussions with natives lamenting this U.S. administration’s return to the Cold War status quo, one statement from a taxi driver stands out: “The U.S. just doesn’t want the world to see the truth”.
No light shines brighter in darkness than truth. Sometimes it’s hard to place oneself outside of our “American” ways. We are constantly beset by the unfulfilled promises of a better life. I humbly submit that Cuba is perhaps the most glaring light, a beacon in the sea illuminating the dark Caribbean night. Of course, there are difficulties, there are inequities, there are harsh and cruel circumstances to the path the Cuban people have charted. We are all the better for the tribulations endured, at times begrudgingly. However, given the equally brutal realities our people face in the United States today, Cuba offers an alternative our respective nations should all pause to consider.
In today’s America of “send her back”, and false black narratives about ADOS, where immigrants are persecuted for their contributions and imprisoned for seeking refuge, Cuba offers another dream. It is the dream of Garveyism, across tongues and ocean straights. It’s the vision of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Simon Bolivar, in the battles won by Benito Juarez, and the war lost by Jose Martí, in the sacrifices of Emiliano Zapata and Albizu Campos, and a revolution spurred by the larger than life Fidel Castro. That is OUR history; formed in the wake of our relentless march forward, however hobbled, that tomorrow -Nuestra America- may be sovereign and free. I could not be prouder. Isaiah 30 v. 20-22 ¡Patria o muerte! ¡Viva Cuba Libre!