Nassau, That Magical City / Yoani Sánchez

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She climbs the stairs of the plane, in her handbag she carries glasses, a bit of a sandwich she couldn’t finish eating, and the passport that identifies her as a Spanish citizen. But it is not yet the time to show it. While in Cuban territory she can only show the other one, the blue one with its shield of the solitary palm, where it declares she was born in Havana. She has already gone through customs, gracefully passed by the official who checked her permission to leave, and has paid, reluctantly, the excessive airport tax. The loudspeakers announce that her plane is leaving for the Bahamas and she knows she is about to experience a transformation. She doesn’t even listen when the flight attendant welcomes her aboard, nor notice the lit signal that alerts her to her seatbelt. Her mind is concentrated on the stripping of one citizenship and the assumption of another, shaking off the fence of insularity to feel part of the world.

Like her, many other compatriots take a flight to Nassau with the intention of using their Spanish nationality. They leave Cuba showing a national ID, and land on the island of New Providence presenting their other identity as members of the European Union. The transformation occurs in the air, in the miles that separate the Antilles from the Bahamas, in that strip of blue that separates the two archipelagos. Doing this will allow them to enter the territory of the United States without a visa, avoiding the suspicious looks at the checkpoints where they arrive. Lynden Pindling International Airport is the place of metamorphosis, the place to assert the dual nationality that is not recognized in their own country.

And later comes the moment of return. Of experiencing the mutation again, but in reverse. The plan lands at Terminal 5 in our capital, family members keep their eyes peeled, searching for the new arrival. A customs official reels off the questions, while they send her through a room to have her luggage minutely searched. At the bottom of her handbag rests her Spanish passport, that red-covered booklet she saves to return to Nassau some day. To that magical island where, unlike Alice’s mirror, the world is not reflected in reverse, but to the right.

12 March 2012