Christmas in Cuba: A Letter from a Son Forced to Leave

Photo: elTOQUE.

Christmas in Cuba: A Letter from a Son Forced to Leave

25 / diciembre / 2023

Dear Mom and Dad:

Another Christmas has rolled around and everything around me has become a celebration, with lights and Christmas carols. Another New Year’s will soon come, the second one we aren’t together. You know how much I’ve always loved this time of year, decorating the tree, the Nativity scene, cooking for everyone and preparing sweets for the days I meet with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Here in Spain, everything becomes more beautiful (our life was very quiet and simple for many years), but despite the turrons and decorations, the holidays are incomplete without you Mom and Dad and I feel your absence.

I also feel like you are just two of thousands of Cuban parents and grandparents who have had to see their children and grandchildren leave without a return ticket. I look around and the situation of many of my emigre friends is so similar that we console each other. I know that it brings you peace of mind to know that I’m well and safe, but how can we not think about those who are crossing borders in cold Eastern Europe and the Balkans, those who got on a boat out of desperation to cross the human cemetery that is called the Florida Strait or those who walk across Central America heading for the North.

How can we not suffer the suffering of those who have left in search of a better life or have lost themselves in the jungle or those who asked for a better country on July 11, 2021 (I was one of them and I remember that every day), and they are still being held prisoner for political reasons.

The conscience kills an emigre child of Cuba when they go to the supermarket to buy cider and polvorones (Spanish sweets). How many times have I wondered what Dad and Mom were able to find. Did the package I sent them get to them in time? Were they able to get a place in line for meat or will they find it on the illicit market? Are they hiding the truth from me to stop me from worrying? Here, we have panettone, roscon de reyes and marzipans, but I’m missing the neighborhood, games of domino, fun and dancing, sweet guava with cheese, banana fritters and so many other things…

Here, where I live, State Security aren’t harassing me. On the contrary, the Police are guarding the Three Kings parade and I’ve been able to heal some of the trauma I have from the regime’s political violence. But the cold is unbearable a lot of the time, and it carries a longing. Here, friends become a Homeland called affection and this place in Castilla has slowly become my new home, even though it’s still incomplete without you.

I have faith that we’ll see each other again one day and I’ll say “papa, get out of the kitchen, let me cook in peace.” I would have changed, of course, because exile changes you, it makes you more resilient and sullen. I’m not disorganized anymore, the exact opposite, now I live in complete order, but I still don’t like anyone to be in the kitchen with me.

Now, I have a new dream which I never thought I’d have: to be able to hug my parents again. I’m not the only one longing for this, there are thousands of young emigres who wish to see their loved ones again. Many are afraid to go back, while others work around the clock to go back and give them a few days that Time and Distance took away from them.

I’m sure that we’ll hug again one day and that I’ll be able to walk around the block with a suitcase in hand, hurting my wrist and throwing a bucket of water. That day, I also hope I won’t have to hear the same-old political statements, but words of prosperity for the country – where political, economic, social and cultural inclusion are a priority. I dream of gun salutes being replaced by rights.

I hope that this temporary moment isn’t far off. It’d be beautiful to go back home with all of the others who were forced to leave. I also want to go back with those who left in search of a dream, with those who were tired of holding their tongues and even those who didn’t do everything properly. How I long to see those who had to stay behind because they had no other choice, those who were locked away behind bars, the friends who distanced themselves so as not to get into trouble and, even, those who were harassed. That’s because I know that political jails will close down that day, that laws will focus on looking after human beings, that minds will be free. If that isn’t the case, get ready, because I’ll continue to struggle.

That day will be beautiful. Lots of people will make up with dozens of emotions that have been forgotten in order to survive their new realities. That day will be a real Christmas full of lights and a real opportunity to contribute to our birthland. Those who decide to not go back physically, will still be able to have a voice, even from far away. I just hope that we have long and healthy lives to be able to enjoy it, because so many parents have been waiting years for this day to come. Sending a warm hug from these cold Spanish lands to the Caribbean.

Your son.

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.

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