Following Spain’s Footprints / Rebeca Monzo

In the middle of the photo, my grandfather.

This endeavor that I have been subjecting myself to for almost three years is becoming increasingly difficult and stressful. Never before this half-century would it have occurred to me, and practically to any Cuban, I believe, to obtain another citizenship: we were proud of ours.

The fever started as a trickle in the last four decades. Given the country’s situation becoming more and more unsustainable and the barriers to traveling, many who had Spanish parents decided to recover their parents’ citizenship, and with it, facilitate their departure in search of new horizons.

It was almost four years ago, when Spain approved the law of recovery of citizenship for grandchildren. Then the unexpected happened. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans took up the task of requesting supporting documentation, and the Civil Registries, Offices of the Ministry of the Interior, National Archives and others, collapsed. They weren’t prepared for the avalanche of requests that came. In addition, the lines at the Spanish Embassy became longer and more crowded. In the end, it caught us, without having the necessary conditions. Our archives, abandoned for almost fifty years, are chaotic; the books are in very bad conditions or useless.

Digitalized information does not exist; the entire process is manual. In addition, who is interested in this matter, other than the candidate for Spanish citizenship? Everywhere, inefficiency, indolence and mistreatment are the brake that we have to confront in order to try to look for the documentation. The mental wear, the lines, and the money invested in stamps, trips, snacks, and other expenses are too much, because nobody ever knows how many hours they will have to wait until their turn arrives. Almost always you invest the whole day on a single effort.

I have succeeded in collecting plenty of supporting papers of my grandfather: his birth certificate, that, incidentally, they sent from Spain at no charge, his and my grandmother’s marriage certificate, my mother’s verbatim birth certificate (denied since the end of 2010), where it is my own grandfather who registers her, his death certificate, plus all the rest of my supporting papers duly authenticated with their corresponding seals and stamps purchased in Cuban pesos and convertible currency (CUC), as required.

In November it will be three years since I had the consular appointment and I filed all my papers. Months later I was called back to be told of a requirement: demonstrating my grandfather’s presence in Cuba. On that occasion I asked the lady who took care of me if she thought that my grandparents had been able to marry in 1911 on the internet and if furthermore it didn’t seem a bit strange to her that my mother would have been born here in 1912, prior to the invention of artificial insemination. So time is running out and I need the paper from the ship on which my grandfather arrived on this planet, and I keep getting in lines and rummaging through Spanish registries.

Sometimes, when I am about to throw in the towel, I take up the matter again because, having three Spanish grandparents, how can it be possible that I will not be able to acquire that citizenship? What I need most now is a passport that will allow me to visit my children and granddaughters, without causing them so great an expense, and without being crushed by the numerous obstacles to travel imposed on us by the Cuban and Spanish bureaucratic machines.

If the law says that having one Spanish grandparent makes you eligible for citizenship, regardless of whether he or she for any reason acquired Cuban citizenship (the case of grandchildren whose grandparents became Cuban citizens due to the 50% law*). Mine didn’t do it, as the certificate issued by Immigration attests, nor does he appear in workers’ records, because he always worked for himself as a painter and sign-maker.

In the National Archives, where I made the search application in June of 2010, I am told that the volumes from 1900 to 1903 (the dates when we believe my grandfather arrived) are in very bad condition. Where am I going to get that paper they require? I know that this is my own problem, that I am not a magician, that I look for papers that are too old. Nevertheless, I continue obstinately following Spain’s footprints, and I think all this bureaucratism on both sides is like the Olé! – there is no explanation for it.

I earnestly beg anyone who can help me to contact me through my blog.

*Translator’s note: a Cuban law that required that 50% of a business’s employees be Cuban citizens.

October 2 2011