Monday, January 30, 2006

Props to our parents

My parents just came back from a 21-day vacation in South America. While they were there, they were fortunate to be interviewed by a local paper in Bariloche, Argentina. This serves as a good reminder that we have to our part when we're traveling the world to get our story out there. Below is the article translated by yours truly. My Dad tells me that he's proud of what I'm doing on the web, both here and on Tren Blindado. Well I'm proud of you too Dad, and you too Mom.

Cuban tourists arrive in Bariloche after an extensive trip on the Celebrity Millennium, the largest cruise ship to anchor in the port of Buenos Aires.

The visitors told El Cuidadano what it was like to spend fifteen days on a cruise with 1876 passengers aboard and 926 crewmembers at their service.

The tourism that the city attracts causes the streets to be filled with languages from all parts of the world. A low French can be heard, a little higher, Italian, English sounds familiar, and not to mention Portuguese and the characteristic Chilean accent. But there is a song that is confounding, a delicious beat between each phrase reminiscent of beaches, salsa music, the heat and the colors of Central America.

They are the words of the engineer Gerardo González and his wife, Lourdes; those of the accountant Rafael Marques and his wife, Margarita; and the ones of Doctor Enrique Gómez and his charming wife, Elena, that help to give us an imaginary tour of the island of Cuba.

Coming from Miami, these visiting couples arrived at Bariloche in search of a different nature, different tourist attractions, forests, lakes and the recognized hospitality of the people: "we've had a wonderful time, we love the city, its landscapes, and mainly the Argentine cordiality", explained Elena Gómez. But the itinerary on this trip was unique; they arrived in Argentina on the cruise ship Celebrity Millennium that arrived Saturday at the port of Buenos Aires.

In order to give an idea of its dimensions, this ship measures about 300 meters, weighs 90 thousand tons, has a total of twelve floors; and on this trip it lodged to 1876 passengers and 926 crewmembers: "the comforts aboard the cruise ship are many, a heated swimming pool; casino; two story dining room; eight bars; a theater complete with Broadway shows, a pianist, a violinist, a gaucho show and even a complete orchestra. In addition to these attractions there are jewelry shops; boutiques; a spa; hairdressing salon; a running track on the highest deck; and gymnasium. We could say that it is a floating city ", commented the enthusiastic travelers.

Considering its weight and its dimensions, the floating city had a quite different route than the other great cruises since, for the first time, a ship with these characteristics had the duty of sailing through complicated zones like Cape Horn; the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel: "the passage was exceptional, we crossed Valparaiso; Puerto Montt; Punta Arena; Ushuaia; Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Unfortunately we could not stop at the Falklands Islands or Puerto Madryn, two places that also were also on the itinerary, due to the inclement weather ", clarified Enrique Gómez.

The road of life

If it were possible to be interview the million people who comprise of the Cuban colony in Miami, many would be the histories to narrate, each one different from the other, but surely with commonalities to many of their points.

These six people left at almost the same time from the Island, about 45 years ago. They share in having the experience of having to raise their children and see their grandchildren born in North America, in finishing their college careers and working in the United States, although without a doubt they also share the same memories, and most of all, the same love of Cuba: "we miss our fatherland but not its system of government. Today we can travel because we are free Cubans", commented the accountant Rafael Marques.

With the still open wounds, and the intact pain of not having been able to return to see their land, they presented their position towards the government [f]idel [c]astro: "This struggle has been ongoing for more than 45 years, as well as the fear of the repression, the lack of freedom of the press and the marginalization. People should know that the medicine in Cuba is not for the Cubans, but for the foreigners who travel to the country. Before beginning an operation, the doctors consult the Cuban patient to see if he has relatives abroad who can send him the necessary surgical supplies for the procedure. I myself send those supplies. When a Cuban goes into in a hospital, he must take his own pillow, his own sheets, blankets and everything he needs ", explained Doctor Enrique Gómez.

Escaping is never easy, and even less when it’s from a much-loved place. The engineer Gerardo González, left Cuba on the 3rd of September of 1961, in the middle of his university studies: "During my adolescence I supported the ideas of [f]idel and his party, but after the execution of Porfirio Ramirez I was convinced that his government was not what he said. I left the Island and went to Venezuela where I stayed three months, until I went to New Jersey, in the United States, where I remained and studied”.

On the other hand, the accountant Rafael Marques also had a dangerous history and worthy being re-told: "I left Cuba on the 6th of November of 1960, while I studied at the University of Villanueva. One day I decided to sit inside the Embassy of the United States and wait. Thanks to the distracted guard, I managed to enter the building and when the consul entered the bathroom, I entered with him and I asked to help me. Later, after I gave him a note signed by the director of the University, that he had requested, he agreed to help me.

I arrived at a cousin’s house in Miami with 5 dollars and one very small suitcase; he gave me 200 dollars and a ticket to Pennsylvania. Once I settled in the United States, I managed to obtain a visa for Margarita, who was my fiancé at the time".

For Doctor Enrique Gómez, things were not easy either: "I left from Cuba on September 3rd of 1961, observing as [f]idel began to construct a totalitarian power and government. I managed to obtain a visa waiver, and after passing a series of obstacles I managed to leave. Later, the 2nd of March of 1962, I was reunited with Elena ".

After remembering their histories, all agreed with the wish expressed by Elena: "I know that someday we will be able to return to Cuba, and to see our fatherland free".

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