Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flights to Cuba Are a Joke

For Elian's Mother
This is a drawing I did in honor of Elian Gonzalez's mother, who drowned in the Florida straits while fleeing Cuba in an innertube.

A fellow broadcaster in my Latina blogger's group alerted us today about new flights scheduled to Havana from Atlanta. There are now routes even to Camaguey, my mother's birthplace.
But not just anyone can just walk up to a ticket counter at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and book a flight: Only people whose travel falls under certain categories can be authorized to travel to Cuba, Marazul says on its website.
Read more here.

I realize that people travel to Cuba for some serious personal, humanitarian or educational reasons and I respect their choices. But I also think it's important to spell out why some Cuban-Americans don't go to the island.

Flights to Cuba? Really? My big fat Cuban ass!

The bottom line is this, nothing has changed. I'm still stuck in the rut I've been in all 44 years of my life, being Cuban-American, not being able to visit the island where my parents were born, while everyone else gets to go for "purposeful travel."

Hmm ...

I normally don't get into politics, but this rubs me the wrong way. Here are just a few reasons why I refuse to go to Cuba.

My parents suffered all kinds of hell to get out of that communist snake pit. And they were lucky; others fared worse, dealing with executions and death. Hearing stories about your grandma having to smuggle black market eggs under her skirt because some 12 year old was standing in the corner of the block with a machine gun doing "neighborhood watch" puts a damper on any allure of a tourist brochure, doesn't it?

I can't go out of pure, deep respect for my parents and all who fled the regime. I may not stand for anything, but this I will stick to. When they die and communism is out the door, well, then, that will be a different story. Sure, intellectually, the idea of going there is very appealing, but hell, there are plenty of beautiful beaches in the Caribbean for me to explore.

You can have your Cuba in the meantime.

So until things change, really change, these flights to Cuba are just a fucking joke.

I once published an essay on what it feels like to be a second-generation Cuban-American and I compared it to the ghost pain of an amputation.

It's something so close, yet so far, but you can feel it even if it's not part of you any longer, or never was.

So I don't get to see the house my mother was raised in. I don't have the freedom to traverse those mere 90 miles to research my dad's side of the family's history with Harley Davidson. Damn it, I'd even want to handline a big fish in Cuba's water, Hemingway style.

But most importantly, I don't get to put flowers on my grandparents' graves -- grandparents I never met because of the separation of exile. That is seriously on my bucket list. It gets me teary-eyed and I don't cry about just anything. It hurts that I can't honor their memories because of embargo and politics.

My inability to travel to Cuba freely is still a form of being subjugated to dictatorship.

Nothing, nothing has changed.

Yes, it totally is an amputation. A spiritual amputation -- where I don't get to visit the homeland because of some political bullshit. I don't care what people say, the U.S. and Cuba are bedfellows in this. Things are the way they are because someone very powerful doesn't want it to change. We can go to the fucking moon, take down Muslim terrorists and we can't fix this stupid Cuba issue?

So I am only left with stories that flood my brain and drown my heart in nostalgia for something that is part of me that I am not allowed to experience, taste, feel or see in person.

Cuba, tourists from Europe come to your shores, sleep with your saucy jinetera whores, spend Euros there, and then these same guys tell me, to my face -- as one Basque guy did in Spain -- that I should never say I am Cuban because Europeans equate that with cheap, easy tourist sex.

Really? This is not the country my parents came from.

I'm sorry I'm getting all José Martí on your ass, but you can take those flights and shove it.

I'll see you in Cuba when I don't require special permission to go there. I can't trust any country that wants more than a passport.

In the meantime, your tourist dollars could do some pretty good damage in other beautiful islands like Saint Lucia, Grenada, Aruba ...


Patrick said...

Understood. I've always taken the position that our government doesn't really have the right to tell us where we can and can't go. For my part, I don't have much desire to go, as I don't have any connections there - but I don't think it's right that we, citizens of what is supposedly a free country, can be told we can't travel somewhere.

Plus, the embargo hasn't exactly helped the Cuban people, or helped shovel Castro out of power. He's used the US as a scapegoat, and has been making us look bad since the '50s. Yet, we doggedly stick to a failed policy. Someone, a lonnnngggg time ago, should have called Castro's bluff. IMO.

De Su Mama said...

I can appreciate the feeling of a spiritual amputation, and the anger associated with that feeling. And although my family lost and were pained by Castro, I think having spent most of their lives in California versus Miami has lessened their anger for the regime {and mine}.

Claro, not that we are in support of the arse, but that after years of discussion we have all seriously considered going to visit.

Gracias for this heart felt post. I found your blog through our mutual FB group, and LOVE to meet fellow Cubanitas, especially ones searching to stay connected with our heritage.

Un abrazo,

Myrah - Coupon Mamacita said...

Excellent post! Enjoyed and agree with you!

swampthing said...

You should go, i did, not on vacation but as a pilgrimage. The tired DiazBalartLehtinen embargo serves the island museum of a failed system. Revolutions are not supposed to last fifty years.ÑOS-ebook/dp/B004IWQZ8M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1316835067&sr=1-1