Sunday, January 28, 2007

"I reject the Revolution"

On Saturday I had the carpet cleaners over to steam clean the carpets in my house. They always send two guys even though one really ends up doing all the work. Maybe they alternate when they go to different houses.

Anyway, with one guy doing the actual steam cleaning the other guy usually ends up just making small talk. In this case the guy that wasn't doing the cleaning was a Cuban guy in his late 40s. Somehow, inevitably, the topic of Cuba came up and I asked him when he came. He said he came 3 years ago.

He was a rector at a University in Cuba and now he cleans carpets. His wife was a nurse. They won the visa lottery and it cost him $10,000 to get his family of 3 out. The only lottery that COSTS you money.

For example all people that are LEAVING Cuba are for some reason required to have a health check up. Free Cuban healthcare? Nope. $400 per person for what amounted to a chest x-ray and a taking of vital signs. I asked him how he obtained all the necessary cash. He said friends, family, begging and borrowing.

I asked him gently if it was worth it to leave considering what he was and what he is doing now. He didn't hestitate. He said that you just can't live in Cuba. The words he said that have stayed with me were: "I was born in the Revolution, I was raised with the Revolution, and I reject the Revolution."

Afterwards, outside, we talked about his life in Cuba. He proudly explained to me how he had dug a well in his yard so that he could have water when the water service was interrupted. He explained that he had rechargeable batteries that would run his refrigerator and TV when the power would go out. He was quick to point out that he was very fortunate to have these things. I began thinking of the hurricanes last year and the couple of days I didn't have power and began to wonder whether I could live like this man had been forced to live.

As if reading my mind, the man said that despite everything Cuba is the most beautiful land he had ever seen. He said Cuba had the most beautiful virgin beaches up to 25 kilometers long and that in Cuba a man had nothing to fear from any beast or snake. His expression was something I'll never forget, a look of wonderment in his eyes as he talked about how beautiful his country is.

I wanted to leave him with something that he wouldn't forget. I felt I was speaking for my parents and grandparents when I told him, "I understand how you feel about Cuba. It's the same way the Cubans that have been here a lot longer than you feel. Hopefully now you can understand why sometimes the old-timers are so bitter and angry. If you get nostalgic for your beautiful Cuba after only 3 years, imagine having to abandon it and be separated from it for close to 50 years." He looked at me with a wistful look in his eye and said, "I understand how they feel."

We shook hands as they left. I felt that somehow a connection had been made. Here we were, two Cubans from completely different experiences both waiting for the day that so many are waiting for.

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