I remember years ago, being in Madrid at the International Crafts Fair, with some of my students and I heard in the distance the first notes of our anthem. I trembled, felt my throat go dry and, excusing myself from them, left to go where those first notes were echoing. I was dressed in campaign mode: jeans, t-shirt and sneakers to be able to run between the different pavilions. Suddenly, when the music great louder and clearer, I saw standing in front the then Cuban ambassador to Spain, with the doctor who had spent a lot of time taking care of my mom. We were both surprised. He very elegant, his wife like she’d stepped from the pages of Vogue. I was embarrassed but noticing my confusion he gave me a hug that surprised everyone present, then, when I’d regained my composure, he asked me an uncomfortable question, “And what about you, what are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story,” I answered, while saying my goodbyes and getting away.
Later, back home, I remembered those verses by Martí that were always my among my favorites:
“The mother love of the Country is not a ridiculous love of the land, nor of the grass our plants walk upon. It is the invincible hatred of anyone who oppresses it, it is the eternal rancor of anyone who attacks it.”
To feel oneself Cuban, to be Cuban, it is not necessary to live in Cuba (an absurd criteria they would like to impose upon our culture). To be Cuban is an innate condition, incorporated into the depths of our feelings, there is nothing nor anyone that can stop it, no decree can exclude it, they would have to tear out our soul. My country is my family, my children, my friends, my neighborhood, the place where I was born. Country is much more than an anthem and a flag.
October 9, 2010