Autonomous Luggage / Yoani Sánchez

Under the seat one could see a patched grab bag, like those given to people who went on missions in the 1980s. Every time the bus jerked over a pothole, many eyes fixed on it to see if its contents had come spilling out through the broken zipper. Nearby, on the road to the town of Candelaria, a police patrol stopped the trip and ordered everyone out with their belongings. At the end of the aisle, along with others equally orphaned, was the mended valise of a one-time State security officer who had been in Europe or some country in Africa. No one made the least move to pick it up.

Two officers searched each row and piled the packages no traveler had claimed on the steps. They opened them with great care, cutting the corners, pulling out the staples, to expose contraband more pursued than arms and drugs: milk,.cheese, lobster, shrimp and fish. A sheep dog, trained to detect seafood, milk products and beef, searched among the packages people had consigned to the ditch, under the sun. “Everyone will be detained until the owners of these packages come forward,” shouted one of the higher-ups as he starts to fill the trunk of the police car with the confiscated goods.

Although they questioned and threatened the travelers at the station, they could not impute any crimes to them as there was no way to prove who owned the pounds of food surely intended for the black market. It was impossible to connect the suitcases “traveling alone” with any individual. Oddly, the buses that cross the country are loaded with these possessions no one wants to claim as their own. Autonomous bags, sacks and boxes who will only find an owner if they make it to their destinations, if they manage to make it safely through the check points, the searches and dogs’ noses.

October 4, 2010