Glancing at the TV I was caught by a phrase from Zenaida Romeu, director of the chamber group that bears her name. It’s Tuesday and the energy of this woman, a guest on the program With True Affection, Two… had me sitting in front of the screen while the potatoes burned on the stove. She answered the questions skillfully, with a language far from the boring chatter that fills so many other spaces. In a few minutes she told of the difficulties in creating an all-woman orchestra, how bothered she is by the lack of seriousness in some artists, and of the day when she cropped her hair to appear with the maestro Michael Legrand. All this and more she told with an energy that calls forth an image of her, baton always in hand, score in front of her.
It is not her own story, however, that has me thinking when I return to the pot on the stove, but that of her children. She is the third or fourth guest on Amaury Perez’s program who has admitted that her children live in another country. If I’m not mistaken, Eusebio Leal* also spoke of his emigrant kids, and a few days earlier Miguel Barnet* described a similar experience. All of them speak about it naturally. They discuss it without thinking that it is precisely this massive exodus of young people that is the principal evidence of our nation’s failure. That the children of a generation of writers, musicians and politicians — including those of the Minister of Communications and of the director of the newspaper Granma — have chosen to leave, should make them doubt themselves, make them wonder if they have contributed to building a system in which their own descendants don’t want to live.
This migration is a phenomenon that has left an empty chair in almost every Cuban home, but the high incidence of among families who are integral to the process, is very symptomatic. The number of children of ministers, party leaders and cultural representatives who have relocated abroad seems to exceed that of the offspring of the more critical or discontented. Could it be that in the end the dissidents and nonconformists have transmitted a greater sense of belonging to their children? Have these famous faces noticed that the babies born to them are refusing to stay here?
I look at Teo for a while and ask myself if someday I will have to talk to him from a distance, if at some moment I will have to confess — in front of a camera — that I failed to help create a country where he wanted to stay.
Eusebio Leal is the Havana City Historian, director of the program to restore Old Havana and its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Miguel Barnet is a Cuban writer.