It has been a long time since our identity has been contained on one Island. Being born and raised on this elongated territory is no longer the main criteria to carry its nationality. We are a people scattered across five continents, as if we had been sprayed over the canvas of the world map by the erratic hand of economic necessity and lack of freedom.
I know how it feels. I know how hard it is to go to the Cuban consulate in any country and be asked to sign your name in support of freedom for the Interior Ministry’s five agents – prisoners in the United States – while they do not even ask you if there’s anything they can do to help you. I have listened to a young man cry at an embassy in Europe while a bureaucrat repeats that he cannot return to his own country because he exceeded the eleven months he is allowed to be away. I have also witnessed it from the other side, the denial received by many here who apply for the White Card needed to board a plane and leave this Island. The travel restrictions have become routine and some have come to believe it should be this way, because to know other places is a perk that they give us, a prerogative that they award us.
Those few who decide who may enter and leave this archipelago have chosen the participants of the Nation and Emigration conference that starts today in the Palace of Conventions. I have read the debating points for the two day conference and I do not believe they represent the concerns and demands of the majority of Cuban emigrants. It jumps out at me that the topics do not include a requirement to put an end to the property confiscations for those who relocate to another country, nor do they mention the necessity to return the right to vote to expatriates. I don’t even find, in the discussion agenda, an announcement of the end of the limitations so many of the conference participants face to return and resettle in their own country.
Nor is the share of Cubans living on this Island, in all our plurality and hues, represented at the conference, rather it bears the official seal and rigidity of its organizers. Both groups – those inside and those outside – are circumscribed and screened to avoid “The Nation and Emigration” turning into a recitation of the migratory atrocities we all suffer. More than complaints and criticism, what the authorities who organized the meeting want to hear in that enormous room – where Parliament usually meets – is the tumultuous sound of applause.