samedi 19 avril 2008

Guanabacoa in the Far North of Australia
You were here a couple of years ago, I asked the Peruvian lady selling trinkets in the shade of a gorgeous banyan tree in the middle of the city of Cairns, in the far north of the State of Queensland, Australia. She peers at me, silence broken at the recognition, you are the doctor from Cuba, her tone changes into a warm one, and her first question was, How is Fidel?
He is sick, and let us hope for the best.
Two old men, obviously retired, whiling this Friday morning at the trinket stand, looked at me at the mention of our Comandante, Querido Fidel Castro.
They are from Cuba, said the lady, with a slight laugh.
I cannot but sing praises for my little island, the value of goodness in the individuals of that distant island which makes up for the happiness, in that non materialistic setting. Knowing that Cairns has a large group of refugees from Timor Leste, the former Portuguese colony brutalized by the Indonesian Military, I said to her, Cuba invites a fair number of students from Timor Leste to come and study in Cuba to become doctors and teachers..
How nice, she said.
I should have noticed the faces of men. They looked out of place here, in this friendly northern town, felt he would be more at home wearing his startched guyaberas in Café Versailles in SouthWest Eight Street in Miami..drinking a cafecito.
Where are you from? I asked the other man. I was from Camaguey but spent more time in Vedado. Neither of them were interested in talking about Cuba. No questions asked. The usual immigrant dilemma. Do I miss my city? Shall I feel it? Or feel the bitterness of exile from an island which has defied all odds for the past forty nine years, Did my country chase me away? Am I a misfit here among many other misfits and marginalized people? Should I miss my country?
Refugees among other refugees, external ones such as those from Timor Leste, Zimbabwe nurses at the local public hotel, two ageing Cuban exiles, not refugees, too far from Cuba, and from another time, to be refugees.
My exuberance is an insult to them. I try not to overflow with my emotions for Cuba, but cannot hide my love for Cuba, even if it is inappropriate under these hot humid breeze and clouds less sculpted than the ones in my Isla Rica.
Where are you from, I now direct my attention to the grey haired man sitting fidgeting at nothing in particular.
Guanabacoa, his sentences are one word long, unusual for a Hablanero!
The jewish cemetery and Rita Montaner, I tried to bring a little enthusiasm into the conversation.
Ice cold silence
Time has not healed the wound of departure in these people. Perhaps the wound has bled them of their soul. Love for ones own country. It is a selfish act to condemn ones country based on political or social changes that affect all but put emphasis on the individual suffering and defect from the idealism of a better world. Cuba is for people who care about others, Cuba is for people with a sense of solidarity. The old communist had told me in 1996, if you think more about yourself than others, go to USA, you will be rewarded .. but if you can think of others, put yourself in the situation of those who are also suffering, welcome to Cuba, you will have a great time..
I don’t have to reiterate my wonderful association with Cuba for the last 10 years.
There is a Puerto Rican Girl here , Diva Melendez. She is off soon to Timor Leste to do some voluntary work. To give to others, building her good worth by sharing her human values
Said the lady from Peru.
Please give her my email, who knows she might find a deserving student in Timor Leste who could come to Cuba to study Medicine. Then one more village in Timor will have a doctor in five years..
I have your card from the last time, said the lady from Peru. Ceviche and Andes, like Rita Montaner and the decaying jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa may be inappropriate under these humid skies.
It is the tragedy of time, the earth opens up, sucks you in, along with the dusty streets where you played your innocent games. The reality remains the snow of the Andes is far away and you may never again feel the biting wind of the altiplano, ensconced amidst misfits and marginalized and ordinary and all the extraordinariness of this wonderful country somehow or other barred to you, not to your children, grandchildren, here in the humid tropics of Australia, a dream and a century away.
Here is a little souvenir for you, I said to her, and pulled out the red three peso note from Cuba
Che Guevara de la Sarna Lynch once rode through the heart of her country commiserating with miners and lepers and the poor of the andes
Mira, Look, Che, she said in an excited voice, the old man from Guanabacoa still looked on coldly.
Certainly the earth of mankind has formed itself into a dust as thick as the tropical mist for him, Cuba is far away indeed.
For him, may be
Not for me, in my heart I carry the voices of my friends and their affections bridge the apparent distance
How can I be far away from Cuba, when they are with me and wherever they go they take me along?

Written on the flight from Cairns to Darwin 4 4 08
Transcribed at Changi Airport in Singapore 5.4.08

Dedicated to Adriana and Loraine and Yanetsy, young psychologists in cuba