Overseas Ballot Boxes / Yoani Sánchez

Image: www.entornointeligente.com

After dinner they stayed at the dining room table to fill out the ballots. He nervous, she more decisive. They worked like crazy, marking them with crosses, while the kids played on the sofa. Those papers received from the Spanish Consulate in Havana smelled new, of fresh ink on a shield of columns and crowns. But the newest thing for the couple was the act itself, choosing from a list of several parties, the action of deciding among different political stripes. Both, who not so long ago had guarded the ballot boxes in their pioneer neckerchiefs, voted for the first time since acquiring the condition of naturalized Spanish citizens. They took the pen with a determination they’d never applied to a national ballot, choosing from a distance because they can not yet do the same where they live.

Millions of Cubans have never heard a political program with the voice a parliamentary candidate. Nor even a preliminary pronouncement from one of them on such timely themes as the dual currency, gay marriage, or the urgent immigration reform. Perhaps it is from this local disappointment that springs the seriousness with which 12,458 of our compatriots asked to participate in the Spanish elections of this November 20. Beneficiaries of the “Law of Grandchildren,” they rehearse with the Atlantic interposed and try to make their mark on another reality, knowing that their own destiny is decided only by a tight circle of higher-ups. Who’s to say that their growing presence in these elections won’t influence the seats and alliances, the smiles and tears that are set to fall tonight in Madrid.

The attention with which the Spanish community on the Island follows the Spanish electoral process is surprising. Among voters here there is a clear intention to push the policies of Madrid’s Moncloa Palace so that, in turn, something will move in the Plaza of the Revolution. The ballot cast in this “overseas ballot box” carries a scream demanding attention, and a handkerchief waving from the shipwreck. The same couple who – from their Havana table – made their marks next to the name of a foreign party, now face the dilemma of whether to take their children to “the motherland” or to leave them in the country where they were born. Whether we like this dependence or not, today in Spain a part of the Cuba’s course was also decided, of this nation that boasts of its sovereignty but which, in reality, hangs on many threads that are woven abroad.

20 November 2011