May 13, 2010

Looking back, longing for home, and not so...

It's been a year since I had to go back to Cuba. Not to sunbathe in the beach, spend my hard-earned dollars in the government-owned hotels or brag about the latest cell phone or pair of shoes. I had to go because my father suffered two heart attacks and – after waiting almost nine months to receive the passport and required (and fully paid) authorizations from the Cuban consular office in Washington, DC – I wanted him to meet my US born son in our homeland.

It was a trip plagued with a mix of heart-breaking sentiments, where more than once I questioned myself, my own principles and those things that I hold dear.

My father and relatives in Cuba met my son for the first time. My cousin who lives in Spain joined us there and we all met, for he first time, her blond galleguita. The four cousins raised together as sisters in Alamar reunited, after 10 years.

Along with being with my Dad and going with him to medical follow-up visits, I mostly stayed home with my family. I went with thousands ideas of stories I wanted to tell in this blog. I thought I could touch base with the life I left behind and then, come back here and write about it. Well, reality proved me wrong. And the fact that both my son and I got sick while there (in the peak of the swine flu scare) didn’t help much either.

For reasons that I don’t fully comprehend I still feel unable to connect the dots to explain in writing everything I saw. From the first paper that I had to request here to travel, to the second I step out of the crappy airport in Havana where the US charter flights arrive, I was completely panicked that they would not allow me to enter the country.

It wouldn’t be the first case anyway, and knowing my fiery personality – now improved/aggravated by my God given First Amendment Rights – I knew I would be walking on eggshells.

As I’ve posted before, I came back disappointed, sad, and hopeless and at some points, yes, mad. This sometimes has made me think that I’ve lost my capacity to deal and overcome adversity… but after three or four days of being in Cuba, after seeing all the relatives that I hadn’t seen for years, I was SO ready to come back, I felt I could built my own inner tubes raft and paddle North ‘till the American shores…I just wanted someone whom to tell “I’m American” and to hear “Welcome home”. I was afraid.

My father finally joined us in the land of the free seven months ago. But I am still afraid for the sake of the others that I left behind. And sometimes, I can not find a logic explanation to it.

So, while this Cubanita still struggles to put together some of those ideas in a logical order – sometimes I am THAT optimistic – I will leave your with the ones that don’t need words.

These are some of the pictures that I took; much less than what I had originally planned because after we got sick, were basically stayed home-bound. But this is, after all, a snippet of what used to be my tiny world in Havana…

The welcoming committee when the airport's doors finally open to the street in Boyeros: slogans, signs, more slogans and more signs, like if you were going to be able to fill out your empty stomach with emptier slogans.

Resourceful: your first lesson for survival in Cuba, from the moment you catch your first breath in at birth.

Sometimes, size DOES matter.

One of the entrances to my former neighborhood in East Havana: Alamar, located 13 km East of downtown Havana and North of the infamous prison Combinado del Este.

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Images with meaning: a special token of appreciation for a good friend and fellow blogger; this is the only gas station located in the neighborhood and well, it was built before Castro took over, fact that I learned from him - duh?-  after being here in the US.

Another pic of the gas station and what used to be the car repairs shop next to it. The shop has been out of commission for years and during my trip I learned the government is now issuing some sort of "gift cards" to official driver to put gas on the "official" cars because the underground gasoline commerce in the black (illegal) market was completely out of the commissars control.

This is one of the family medical offices that sprouted in Havana in the late 80's early 90's, when Castro put up his boondoggle of one family physician for every 120 families. It is located in Alamar, in Zone 1, east of high rise, eheem, 12th floors buildings (doce plantas). It is one of the countless empty medical offices in Cuba, after the doctors have been sent to Venezuela as five stars slave labor to bring hard currency for the dear leader. During this trip, it was evident this is one of the things that enrages regular Cuban the most; they have finally seen the huge lie behind their "free" health care.

In the middle of paint less buildings looking like they are going to fall down with the next hurricane, the garbage every where and odors from all sources, there is this little house that could in the street that takes you to Alamar's beach (la playita de los rusos - the Russian's beach). It is built of some sort of pre-built plastic mix of recycled materials from the oil industry. Its components came a long way, directly from Venezuela, as a present from Hugo "Monkey" Chavez. This is the home of the jefe de sector: the police officer that controls this area of the neighborhood.

Alamar: the ending point of Avenida de los Cocos, the street that takes you to la playita de los rusos. At the end, to the right of the picture, is where the little house that could is situated.

In the back of this picture is the maternal hospital of Marianao, Maternidad Obrera. Even from the distance one can see the broken windows and the missing doors in the second floor balcony.

* * * The pics will continue tomorrow, so you can come back for more * * *

1 comment:

Sassafrita said...

Several things strike me about this post.
The realities of free health car and the beautiful cars.
Thank you for posting these.