A Passport, A Safeconduct / Yoani Sánchez

It’s only thirty-two pages with a blue cover. This Cuban passport looks more like a safe-conduct than an ID. With it we can escape from insularity though it still doesn’t guarantee we can board an airplane. We live in the only country in the world where acquiring this document to travel requires us to pay in a currency different from that in which they pay our wages. Its cost of “fifty-five convertible pesos” means that the average worker must save his entire salary for three months to be able to buy this filigreed booklet with the numbered pages.

However, in this beginning of the 21st century it is no longer unusual to meet a Cuban with a passport, something extremely rare in the seventies and eighties when only a select few could show one. We became an immobile people and the few who left went on a foreign mission or departed into the finality of exile. To cross the barrier of the sea was a prize for the faithful and the great masses of “unreliables” could not even dream of leaving the archipelago. Fortunately, that began to change thanks, perhaps, to the influx of tourists who infected us with curiosity about what was outside, or the fall of the socialist camp, which meant the government could no longer award “incentive trips” to only the most loyal.

Now, when they become citizens of another country, my compatriots breathe a sigh of relief to have a new identification document that gives them a sense of belonging somewhere. A few brief pages, wrapped in a cover with the coat of arms of another nation can make all the difference. Meanwhile, that little blue booklet that says Born in Cuba, remains hidden in a drawer, in the hopes that one day it will be a source of pride, rather than shame.

*Considering that the Office of Immigration and Aliens retained my passport after my last application for an exit permit, have I become an undocumented?