18 Years After the Maleconazo Uprising, What Happened to Those of Us Who Stayed? / Reinaldo Escobar

I missed the events of August 5, 1994 because at that time I was out of Cuba. Some friends invited me to Germany and on the morning of the 6th I woke up in Frankfurt looking at some images in CNN that seemed to be of Havana, but I didn’t want to admit what was happening there.

Two days later an article was published in the newspaper Tages Zeitung, under the title Ich zruck nach Cuba, or I Return to Cuba, and I commented that the exodus seemed like madness to me and I wondered, “Where is all this going to end?”

Today, I now know that it’s not over. I don’t know how many of those 35,000 Cubans who braved the currents of the Straits of Florida on the most unimaginable crafts have returned to the country as tourists, surely fatter and better dressed; I don’t know how many of those who didn’t dare then later chose a raft, a marriage of convenience, a desertion, a refugee visa, or one of the many ways in which Cubans continue to escape their country. Nor do I know the number of the repentant. Sorry to have left, sorry to have stayed. I only know that that, this, is not over and that the probability of something similar happening again remains a threat.

In the last year some 30,000 people abandoned the country by different routes. In these 18 years — without appealing to official statistics — at least a quarter of a million must have emigrated, who knows if it’s half a million. Enough to fill a plaza. I don’t know what would have happened if those people had stayed. I don’t know what would happen if suddenly we all left.

I do know that I returned to my country and so far I continue to think of staying, with great respect for all those who make the decision to leave.

6 August 2012