Recently, with a friend from Spain, I watched a documentary by Elias Andres and Victoria Prego about the transition to democracy in that European nation. There were thirteen episodes, filled with details covering the period from 1973 to 1977, between the death throes of a caudillo and the birth of a plural society. Through images and the voices of important political actors in this process, they analyzed the Law for Political Reform, the death of General Franco, the coronation of Juan Carlos I, and the legalization of the Communist Party. My friend, now over fifty, didn’t get up from her chair even once during all the hours those chapters lasted. At the end, she said something that gives me strength at this time, “I was there, in many of those times and places, but while we lived through it we didn’t know it was the transition.”
I think the same thing is happening to us Cubans. We are in transition, something seems to be on the verge of being irreparably broken on this Island, but we don’t realize it, sunk in the day-to-day and its problems. Afterward, the documentary filmmakers appeared and in thirty minutes narrated what for us has taken decades. Analysts will create their timelines, laying out the events of what has happened here, what, some day, will be history. Cubanologists, for their part, will say that the indicators of the fall were already apparent, and will choose a date on the calendar to mark the end. Filmmakers will take pleasure in reconstructing “zero day” and even little kids will agree yes, that’s right, and say that they also have memories those times.
But the main change will not be the death of an old man in his bed, a person about whom Cubans care less and less, nor the legalization of some other political force to compete against ancient Communist Party of Cuba. The substantial transformation has already started to occur in our minds. A slow metamorphosis, timid and fearful, but ultimately an evolution. An irreversible process where we are leaving behind something that seemed to us, at times, eternal. When we sit in front of the television and watch the documentary about those years, our grandchildren will ask us questions and after-the-fact reflections will flourish. We will discover a great deal, only then, about those events of transcendental importance on which, for now, the official press is totally silent. But there will be others who will point with pride, “I was there, I lived it, and in my stomach I felt the vertigo of the transition.”