I stay in Cuba and do not leave because otherwise I cannot imagine having to ask for a white card or exit permit in order to permanently choose the place where I want to spend the rest of my life. I stay in Cuba because I could not bear the humiliation of having to seek permission from my country’s oppressors to return to my homeland at a time and for a period of their choosing. I prefer to stay because I fear that I will forget how to say “gracias” and “adiós,” and adapt to saying “thank you” and “bye.” Or will trade “está bien” for “O.K.”
I stay because in the hot afternoons of summer I prefer the breeze that comes down from the mountain to huddling in rooms where boxes with fake air called air-conditioning seem to chill you to your bones. I believe it is better to stay and thus avoid the tormented nostalgia of not being able to return to the plot of land where I was born, or the thought that my community, the Yuma, might say I am a foreigner and not a Cuban.
If you ask me why I stay, I would say because I believe in change and I want to be as close as possible when it comes. I stay because, if I left, my oppressors would no doubt say there is one less — one less anti-establishment voice, one less person protesting in the streets. I stay because, by doing so, I help to discredit those who say the ultimate objective of any dissident is to leave Cuba. I stay because every day I remember the torture and mistreatment I suffered for more than seventeen years in political prison, where they did not even let me attend my mother’s funeral.
I choose to stay each time I see the bite marks from the political police’s attack dogs. I stay because I have no feeling for Anglo-Saxon culture. Because my language is Spanish and my classics are those of Cervantes and not Shakespeare. Because since I was little I babbled the word “mamá” and not “mother.” And because no one can take away my second surname — my mother’s family name — as is common practice in countries of the north.
I stay because I cannot stand another way of life being imposed on me, living with strangers and being far away from where there is so much to do. I stay because my efforts at liberation are aimed at encouraging the thousands and thousands of my compatriots who have struggled for the return of a free Cuba, such as the brothers with long prison sentences, their family members, the victims and finally the a very significant segment of my people forced into exile.
I believe that my duty before leaving is to fight for the return and reunion of everyone in a free Cuba. Therefore I stay, especially when I imagine the sadness of our martyrs who died on foreign soil without seeing their fatherland free — martyrs like Julio Machado, Mario Chanes de Armas, Eusebio Peñalver, Msgr. Agustín Román, Fr. Loreto and all the many anonymous heroes buried in faraway lands. For all of them and for those who died in Castro’s dungeons, firing squads or the Straits of Florida. Or those like Laura Pollán, Osvaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, victims of the subtle brutality of Castro’s tyranny. For all of the above I stay.
September 14 2012