In the Invisible Baggage of the Emigrant

‘Exodus’, by Cuban artist Erick Ravelo Suárez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 April 2022 — The figures do not say everything, nor does the news, the official reports, the terrifying images in front of the current of the Rio Grande or the thickness of the Central American jungles. In every Cuban who emigrates there is a dramatic inventory that counts what he carries in his luggage and what he had to leave on the Island.

They carry with them everything they learned in school, the vaccinations they received as a child, their work experience, their academic titles; what their parents invested with love and patience so that they would be a good person, what the country (not the Government) invested in subsidizing their precarious diet.

They also drag along the perhaps useless tangle of tricks and simulations that allowed them to evade surveillance, sneak into a line, invent a medical certificate for not going to work, an excuse to miss a fashion show, waste time at the office, get a snack to facilitate an appointment at the dentist.

They leave behind that part of their family that could not or did not want to accompany them on the adventure. They had to get rid of books, clothes, shoes, music records; the posters, paintings and ornaments with which they decorated their most intimate surroundings. They abandoned love letters, childhood photos; they left promises to keep, appointments to keep, thousands of things to do.

Many of those who emigrate will have to bury a past that they once felt proud of and that today makes them ashamed: medals, diplomas, the cards that identified them as members of a party (the only one allowed), of mass organizations, of unions. At the foot of that past that they bury, they formally renounce an uncertain long-promised future.

In the baggage, backpack or suitcase with which an émigré manages to leave this country, squeezed into a corner, is his Cubanness, the one that makes him shed a tear when he listens to the national anthem; traveling with him is the arrogant belief that this is, despite everything, the most beautiful island that human eyes have ever seen, where the most beautiful women on the planet live and the best music in the world is produced.

They will arrive at their destination and celebrate the success of their journey. When they check their luggage, they may discover, like an unwanted object, the bitter feeling of defeat that comes from having to leave the place where they were born without having done everything possible to change it.


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