Foreigner For One Day, Foreigner Forever: Diary of a Returnee, Part 2 / 14ymedio, Dominique Deloy

A foreigner can pay up to 12 times more than a Cuban to enter cultural events such as the La Rampa Art Fair. (14ymedio)
A foreigner can pay up to 12 times more than a Cuban to enter cultural events such as the La Rampa Art Fair. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Dominique Deloy, Havana, 22 August 2016 — How do Cubans to know I’m not from here? I wear the same clothes as Cubans (shorts, shirt and sandals) and my skin is not that white in this scorching summer. Also, I flatter myself I speak pretty good “Cuban”… So why do I still feel like a perpetual stigma like I’m being “délit de faciès” (racially profiled) as we would say in France to refer to those who control the streets and target immigrants with no other motive than their physical appearance. Why am I forced to hear continued calls in the street of “Hello my friend?” in English. Followed in Spanish by “Do you want a taxi, a good private restaurant, where are you from? What language do you speak? Do you want to go to the beach?”

Why can’t I just seem normal, like the rest of the citizens, and not an almost extraterrestrial being? Why is the label of tourist stuck to my forehead, as if I was suffering from an obsession that consists of touring the island over and over? Ten years from now will they still be offering me wooden statues of Che berets? Why doesn’t anyone think I live here, and even work here, in exchange for a Cuban salary?

But that is not all. A few days ago, at the La Rampa Art Fair, I had to pay 2 CUC to get in (just to have the right to buy things inside!). My partner, nowever, was only charged 4 Cuban pesos, that is twelve times less than me.

What bothers me most is that everything is implicit, natural, wordless, without explanations, just from looking at my face. And so it is at any cultural event, except the movies, thank God: 2 Cuban pesos for everyone, the only time I become a normal person.

I think that over a long time, despite globalization, an invisible barrier has been raised between Cuba and normal people, between normal Cubans, and the “strange” foreigners. I hardly know if my status as a foreigner is more a positive or a negative from the perspective of Cubans, who generally seem to be well disposed toward me. There is an invisible but unalterable barrier, and I can’t figure out if it’s because Cubans appreciate foreigners. Happily, I left behind the era when my future husband had no right to sleep with me in a hotel or a private B&B, much less swim with me in the crystalline waters that bathe this island, when – at that time, yes – I really was a tourist.