Returning Home / Eliecer Avila

Eliecer greets his father and girlfriend on returning to Cuba
Eliecer greets his father and girlfriend on returning to Cuba

A big hug to all my friends who have remained concerned about my arrival. Today for the first time I put my hands on a keyboard. Since I boarded the plane in Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, after five minutes of free WiFi, I have heard nothing more about what’s going on in the world.

During the journey I had time to think about many things. The memories of the vivid moments of a journey that took me to twelve countries passed through my mind with a particular drama. I felt I had known contemporary civilization, the Modern Era, the development to where humanity knows and understands, and I was on board a flight that took me out of this recently discovered reality and carried me back to years earlier. But I was absolutely sure that this was what I wanted; the sentimental ties I’d left in Cuba and a sense of responsibility to the future were overwhelmingly powerful reasons.

I wasn’t even sad, I was happy to return.

My landing was uneventful, but already from the air something was not right. The image I saw through the window as the plane descended caused me a rare chill. I had been warned about it by some friends experienced in comings and goings. I had heard about the shock I would feel when, involuntarily, my brain began to compare details, shapes, colors, light, life. And so it was, they were not wrong in even a single word.

Once at the airport, knowing that my father and my girlfriend were on the other side of the spider web, I just focused my mind on doing things the best way to get out fast. I was among the first waiting for the luggage and as I saw the coast was clear I wanted to think I could leave in an ordinary way, despite my immense physical and mental exhaustion, the thought of quickly being the arms of my old man and Raquel restored some of my strength.

The bags were delayed a while. I hadn’t taken the precaution of sealing them, or at least putting a padlock on them. I was afraid someone would slip their hands inside, take out something that I would feel deeply. Every gift, from a flash drive to some used clothing had a recipient and would solve or alleviate some problem.

Finally my things arrive and I directed my steps hopefully toward a sign reading “Exit,” where I saw all those who were on my flight leaving. I hadn’t gone far when a young customs official pulled me out of the line and told me I should go to an open space on the side of the aisle where there were large suitcases, the young woman told me it would be a “routine check.”

I only managed to answer: “Do what you want, but please make it quick, I’m really tired.”

Another young officer, but with a higher rank, said something and told me to follow her, we had to go to another place. Then I began to realize that things weren’t normal; in my case, unfortunately, they would be abnormal.

We came to another room where there were only Cubans. There I experienced the veracity of all the amazing stories I had heard about Cuban airports for Cubans. Everywhere I looked I saw people arguing, angry, fatigued, lazy, despairing and jealous. In this room, in full view of everyone, my luggage was dismantled one by one, piece by piece, detail by detail, with the thoroughness of surgeons.

Everything that they found interesting they took for a while to analyze it in another place, where they then brought and photographed it. Specifically phones, memories or any kind of technology or cables.

The most contentious issue was the literature. According to the officer who took the things, “the topics seem inappropriate, analysts are keeping these books and if you want, you can claim them later and if the claim is approved you can come and get.”

I said I would not go from Puerto Padre to Havana to claim them for fun.

And what were the subjects of these books? Was it in a case of a manual on how to make a bomb? No, only books on critical culture, democracy, human rights … Well, it seems that here that is the same as a bomb.

In all these efforts they spent four long hours, and even people coming on later flights had left. Then I still had to stand in the huge line to weigh the luggage and pay taxes. In the process, a lady approached me to tell me: “Your father’s out there, pretty pissed off already.” I knew that, indeed, things could get ugly if I didn’t get out soon because my father, who taught me not to bear the humiliation, would come and find me however he could.

I stood it for another minute, totally not up for it, I was relatively close to one of the “declassified agents” who work in customs and I was ready to unload everything I wanted to say. But it seems they know where the critical point is, and at that moment a boss appeared who, after I paid, let me leave.

God, what a thrill, I was half passed out but got that second wind to crush my loves ones to me. Also my great friends Reinaldo Escobar, Agustín and another boy who took some pictures.

On the way to the house where we stayed the night I was looking right and left, the houses, the streets, the people. My brain started another strong exercise that still has me dizzy, which I will tell you about later, when I’ve had a bit of a rest. Soon the immense Yoani will return, all my senses are focused on her.

From Diario de Cuba

30 May 2013