If there is one thing that motivates Cubans and leads them to make fatal decisions it is the prospect of travel, whether it be to “escape” the island or simply to visit other countries, often without regard for the means or the cost.
I am one of those people who likes to do things in due course and without forcing an issue, especially when it involves getting on a plane or having surgery. In the last two instances I make all the arrangements and take all the precautions that I can, but I realize the final result is in God’s hands.
It has been seven years since I have been able to visit my sons and granddaughters. I last saw the two youngest when one two years old and the other was two months old. On that occasion acquiring the necessary travel documents was complicated in the extreme and the exit visa was six months late in arriving. I was going to an exhibition of my work at the City Hall in Elba, but when I got there, everyone was on vacation and I had to “swallow my losses.” Fortunately, thanks to some friends, I was able to sell enough to pay for my plane ticket.
Finally, after much effort my sons made arrangements for me to travel this year. They organized an exhibition of my work at a friend’s gallery. This is where it all started. Since I have been an “independent” artist and member of the ACAA (Cuban Association of Artisan Artists) for several years, I have the option of making travel arrangements through that organization, which I did this time as well as on previous occasions.
As often happens, things were delayed a bit, and there were some mistakes and setbacks, but finally everything was resolved. The last document to be processed was the application for an entry visa to France, my destination. This step turned out to be the most hassle-free. As always these “scuffles” were resolved, and I ended up feeling surprised and satisfied, but mentally exhausted.
The day I went to the French embassy to pick up my visa, some images came to mind that I translated into words and wrote down quickly on a paper napkin that I was carrying in my purse. As I did this, I thought about those individuals who packed their suitcases, thinking about a family reunion and speedy return – something I never managed to accomplish – but who decided to stay. No wonder we Cubans are looked upon as though we have the word “immigrant” tattooed across our foreheads.
I submit for your consideration, dear readers, these few lines, “begging your forgiveness,” especially from my friend, the blogger Ana Luisa Rubio, who is a real poet, and a good one, too! I am merely a teacher, artisan, blogger, tweeter and, as you can see here, a bit audacious.
“Visa sin Divisa”*
Happiness took a trip,
packing its bags
with its newest garments.
Do not forget
the golden sandals,
or the rose, or the nightingale,
or the thrush that was singing
perched atop the TV antenna.
Do not the forget any
of the many things that nourish me
because the visa has now come
to my old solitude.
Translator’s note: Literally, “visa without hard currency.” The writer employs an internal rhyme in the title.
December 17 2012