Nowhere, But Everywhere / Yoani Sánchez

It’s two in the afternoon at the Department of Immigration and Aliens (DIE) on 17th Street between J and K. Dozens of people are waiting for permission to leave the country, that authorization to travel that has been given the name “white card,” although it might better be called “the safe conduct,” “the freedom card,” or “the get out of prison order.” The walls are peeling and a notice to “be careful, danger of collapse” is posted next to a huge mansion in Vedado. Several women — who have forgotten how to smile and be pleasant — wear their military uniforms and warn the public that they must wait in an orderly fashion. Now and then they shout a name and the person called returns some minutes later with a jubilant face or a strained pout.

Finally they call me to tell me of the eighth denial of permission to travel in barely three years. Specialists in stripping us of what we could live, experiment, and know beyond our borders, the officials of the DIE tell me that I am not authorized to travel “for the time being.” With this brief “no” — delivered almost with delight — I lose the opportunity to be at the 60th anniversary of the International Press Institute, and at the presentation of the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize in New York. A stamp on my file and I was obliged to speak by telephone in the activities of Torino European Youth Capital, and to communicate with the publisher Brûlé to launch Cuba Libre in Montreal without my presence. The absurd immigration has inserted itself between my eyes and the full shelves of the Frankfurt Book Fair, between my hands and the compilation of my texts which will see the light at the Nonfiction Literature Festival in Poland. I will not go to the Ferrara Journalism Fair nor to the presentation of the documentary in Jequié, Brazil, much less be able to participate in the Congress of Women Leading the Millennium based in Valencia, nor in Cuneo, during the City Writers event. My voice will not be hear at LASA, which sent me an official invitation, and I will have to enjoy from a distance the appearance of my book Management and Development of Contents With WordPress.

All this and more they have taken. However, they have left me — as if it were a punishment — along with the basic raw material from which my writings come, in contact with that reality which would not forgive me were I absent.

September 26, 2010