I have a friend, who is an International Chess Master with the title of Grandmaster, whom we consider almost as part of the family, but I hadn’t heard from her since she got a contract to work in Costa Rica last year. Last May I went to the Capablanca in memoriam tournament and, being in the right place, I asked about her. I was surprised by the fact that everyone I asked grinned, looked at each other if they were a group of people, but no one dared to tell me anything about the whereabouts of my friend Tania Hernández. One thing did seem clear among all the evasive responses: Tania was not coming back to Havana.
There was no self-censorship or questioning from the part of those I asked, since Tania is a very lovable person. Despite her career in the sport of Chess, after twelve years as part of the National Chess Team, Tania still lived with her parents and grandmother in the same block in Central Havana where she was born, a home to which improvements were made thanks to the travel stipends she saved from each trip. When her results left her out of the team, they “turned off her lights”, and Tania had to leave her sporting career, give lessons, sell her Chess books, all of which I know was very hard for her.
I suppose she used the contacts she had made while participating in international events to obtain the contract to work in Central America. In this new chapter in her life, Tania will work as a coach or teacher, activities for which she has as much talent as she had for playing; her work will allow her to pay the rent for a cozy little apartment, and also to help her family in Cuba. Now that everyone knows her decision, the Sports Institute (INDER) will not forgive her. Branded as a deserter, she will be forbidden to re-enter Cuba for at least the next five years. Of course we are talking about five years counting from 2010, so I expect to be able to hug my friend in Havana before the sentence, sanctioned by public officials who know nothing about what it’s like to live in a small overcrowded room, expires.
Translated by: Xavier Noguer
September 15, 2010