My Reasons for the Bridge / Yoani Sánchez

With regards to the new amendment presented in the U.S. Congress to restrict travel and remittances to Cuba.

We lived in a dark time in 1992 and this daughter of a train engineer with no train had decided to drop out of high school. I got up early and told my mother. Hands on my head, screaming through the house, the dog barking in shock. “I’m not going any more Mom, I’m not going,” I concluded categorically and went back to bed. My only shoes, inherited from a friend when they already had huge holes in the soles, had fallen apart. I had learned to walk with them touching the floor in a way so that the rips didn’t show, but I could do little to hide them when we had Military Training class. There I had to lie face down, crawling along the terrain, imagining that I was under enemy fire. Then the shells were falling all around me, not those of imperialism but rather of jokes, the cruel chants of those who had better shoes.

For several days my parents gave me all sorts of arguments. How can you throw away your high grades, the sacrifice of studying, all for this “little detail”! they repeated… but at 16 I was ready to forego a diploma rather than suffer the ridicule. The decision was made. My mother ran to the house of a neighbor. She spent the night dialing the number of some of my father’s aunts who lived on the other shore, demonized in the official press. Some weeks later the package arrived. Along with soup cubes and some ointment to treat the pains of rheumatism, was a pair of brand new white sneakers. I returned to my 11th grade classroom the next day.

It’s true that financial help coming from outside has led many Cubans to construct an apathetic and apolitical bubble, but it has also enabled them to survive and grow. Without that help, once sent to me from Florida, my life would have been totally different. I would not have finished high school, probably I would have sailed — on a wooden door — during the rafter crisis, or I would have sunk into conformity with no horizons. But I managed, with this support, to go on. To end up at the university still wearing those shoes of salvation.

Right now, thousands of teenagers, the self-employed, seniors, students and babies depend on the uninterrupted growth in the flow between the families in exile and those on the island. In many Cuban homes the personal ability of thousands of individuals to overcome depends on maintaining this bridge, and their future as citizens rests in the arms of solidarity extended from outside.

July 13,2011