After five attempts to leave illegally, Carlos has found a path without the danger of sharks and sunstroke. One leaves Cuba through one of the few countries that still don’t demand a visa from my compatriots. By this same route, thousands of young have left in these last months, after coming to understand that the announced process of “changes” has been another instance of the powers that be pulling our legs. The recidivist rafter is over thirty and has spent at least a third of his life with his eyes focused on the far shore. If everything goes well, he will be looking at the Island from a distance within a couple of months.
Every year I find myself in the sad situation of remaking my group of friends because, as Wendy Guerra says, “Everyone’s left.” Even those who planned to grow old in this land or who had some economic advantage that allowed them to live comfortably. Even a friend who seemed—like me—to intend to light up El Morro once everyone had left and let it go out, has told us he’s leaving. He came to the house yesterday and in a whisper, as if he were afraid the apartment was full of microphones, told us, “I can’t take it any more.” The phrase I’ve heard so much it’s become commonplace in our conversations.
He is another who leaves despite a good apartment, a job that pays well, an intense public life. He made the decision to emigrate for reasons very different from those of Carlos, but both agree they don’t want their children to be born in Cuba. Meanwhile, one lives in the falling down house of his grandmother, the other sleeps each night with the air conditioner set to 20 degrees Celsius. Their conditions of life are so different and their aspirations so similar that I can only think the imperative to emigrate comes from the hypothalamus. It’s like a pull that comes from within, a call to the instinct for self-preservation that tells us, “Save yourselves, get out of here.”