Knowing I’ve been in Spain for one year, a friend from Valencia asks me what I lost since leaving the island. As I know she is trapped in the tapestry of her circumstances, I try to be brief. I tell her I came in search of lost time, to connect with my origins, wrapped in the arms of my wife and her family — my new family — eager for new experiences, places, friends and acquaintances. I clarify that, for me, exile, rather than a loss is an alternative, synonymous with freedom instead of tragedy. In many places in the world people live day to day without thinking about everyday challenges, immersed in work, children, problems; happy or sad, embarrassed, proud, hopeful.
Changing countries does not rewrite the script of our lives nor fix the balance of gains and losses. Life is a challenge anywhere, but we mark the place and customs, the language and cultural expressions, climate and geography, love and luck, the gods and biased concepts like country and nation. We humans are nomads despite borders and laws, governments and their dictates, ethnic, political and theological prejudices.
In the case of Cuba, there is the romantic whining of homeland from exile, mourning for what is lost, enlarging what is “ours” as something exclusive; incapable of inserting ourselves into another environment and feeling that the floor moves under us before new challenges and problems. But what do we lose? Is it worth clinging to the past cursing mistakes, living sunk in nostalgia?
I know there are millions of people trapped in poverty and hopelessness in dozens of countries, including Cuba. What do I miss of Cuba ? What did I lose? I may still not know. I stay in contact with my children and I remember fondly colleagues and friends with whom I interacted in Havana; I read the digital pages they write – Cubanet, Diario de Cuba, Semanario Primavera, Voces Cubanas. I feel no nostalgia for the dirty streets, the screaming of the neighborhoods, crowded buses, excessive heat, collective misery, herds of police nor the one-party rule and exclusive decisions.
My country passes through family, art and literature, the sea, freedom … In that sense, I can tell my friend from Valencia that sometimes, just sometimes, traveling along the coast of some Mediterranean cities it brings to mind the beach in Varadero or the Malecon in Havana. But without tears or tropical longings. I did not leave Paradise nor do I seek it in Europe. Paradise Lost is within us.
13 November 2013