Apartheid en Cuba
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    Apartheid Persists / Yoani Sánchez

    Apartheid Persists / Yoani Sánchez
    Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

    Reinaldo took the side of yes and he insisted and insisted. I, however,
    am of the generation that thinks ahead of time that nearly everything is
    prohibited, that they are going to scold me at every step and prevent me
    from doing anything that occurs to me. So this time the matrimonial
    discussion was intense. He claimed that we could board that boat to see
    Cienfuegos Bay from the swells of its waves; while the little voice
    inside me shouted that so much enjoyment could not be available to
    nationals. For a couple of hours I believed in my husband's optimism and
    like a tropical Candide he got away with it. We went to the marina
    office near the Jagua and an official there sold us two tickets
    for the coveted boat trip. We never hid our breakneck Havana accents,
    nor tried to pass ourselves off as foreigners, but no one asked for
    identification. We felt there were already a pair of seats on board the
    yacht "Flipper" with our names on them and the murmur of skepticism
    faded in my head.

    We arrived at the dock half an hour early. The sun-burnt tourists began
    to board the boat. Rei and I reached the spectacular corner from where
    we took photos of that bay as big as an ocean. The dream lasted barely
    five minutes. When the captain heard us talking he asked if we were
    Cubans. He shortly informed us that we had to go ashore, "boat rides are
    prohibited for nationals at every marina in the country." Rage, anger,
    the shame of carrying a blue passport makes us guilty — in advance — in
    the eyes of the law of our own nation. A feeling of deception on
    comparing the official discourse of a supposed opening with the reality
    of exclusion and stigma. We wanted to cause a scene and cling to the
    railing, to compel them to remove us by force, but what would it have
    served? My husband dusted off his French and told the group of Europeans
    what was happening. They looked surprised, whispered among themselves.
    None of them disembarked — in solidarity with the excluded — from that
    coastal tour of our island; none of them found it intolerable to enjoy
    something that is forbidden to us, its natives.

    The Flipper sailed, the wake of apartheid was visible for a few seconds
    and then was lost among the dark waters of the bay. The face of the
    musician Benny Moré on a nearby poster seemed to have exchanged its
    smile for a sneer. On one side of his chin was the famous refrain from
    one of his songs: "Cienfuegos is the city I like best…" We left that
    place. Reinaldo defeated in his illusion and I sad that my suspicions
    had triumphed. We waked along the road to Punta Gorda while an idea took
    shape in our minds: "If Benny had lived in these times, he too would
    have been thrown off — like a mangy dog — from that yacht."

    6 November 2011



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