Thursday, November 26, 2009

Two leaves

I arrived to Canada a cold night of September in 2000, leaving behind a long travel through a life of deceit and broken dreams. The last picture of my country was the thin and long seashore of Varadero. From the air, the stunning beach looked like a bubbly line of sand and water. The sun was shining and through the thickest window of my plane I took a last glance of my little island in my way out.dos hojas

My eyes were covered in tears, and my heart was falling in pieces. At that point, I didn’t know when and how I would touch the soil of my homeland again. I was leaving, my heart was leaving and with both, my identity was fading away into the dark.

Three years later I became a Canadian citizen. Meanwhile I was chanting with others the Canadian national anthem, my memories were in their travel back to that moment when I was watching the transparent and sapphires waters of Varadero, and the feelings were the same: a mixture of sadness and joy. I became a Cuban-Canadian in November of 2003, and I travelled to Cuba in my new identity four months later.

It’s hard our pace through life, especially when you left someone you love behind, and you miss your friends, the day-to-day sounds, the smell of the rain hitting the sidewalk, those little things you never noticed before and now become significant.

Visiting our native soil becomes a surrealistic trip to our origins. Cuba doesn’t allow double citizenship, and meanwhile you already are proud to be Canadian, Cuban officials decry your status as “Cuban-foreigner”: you are an enemy, someone who deserted the Revolution, someone who betrayed Fidel.

You have to pay a Cuban passport which probably is the most expensive passport in the whole world. Every year you have to pay $80.00 to update a stamp attached to that passport which is your legal permission to enter to your own country. And with it, you have to keep your mouth shut, your real opinions and feelings restrained and endure humiliations, despair and anger every time you show up at the Cuban embassy.

They squeeze your pockets, but in the public speeches we are “the enemy”. They need our money, but we are “agents of the Capitalism”.

Then, when you reach the customs in any Cuban airport, they examine your documents, your eyes; they stroll every inch of your face looking for the culprit behind your skin. After all, we are the exiles; we committed a crime against our forefathers. And if your fault is not too big to crush your wings to fly into your own country, you get 21 days to enjoy the luxury to walk hand to hand with your folks.

But you are tangled between two nationalities in one person: you are Cuban, but you are not. You have the magic currency that open any door in Cuba for only 21 days, but you also know you are walking a fine line in which every move is watch. After all, when you applied for your stamp you declared where you are living in Canada, what you are doing, all your personal information, where you are going to stay in Cuba, with who and why.

I wonder if it is too hard to understand, by Canadians and people in general, the deepest violation of your identity and rights as citizen of your own country that Cubans have to suffer for.

In other words, you became Canadian, but to enter to your native country you have to pay for your own passport as Cuban. Then when you face the window in the customs you are not Cuban, but you have to feel the same fist stretching your neck like every common Cuban when it’s your time to leave: again you have to present the Canadian passport as an opening key to return to your adoptive homeland.

So, at the end, who are us: Cubans or Canadians?

For the pockets of the big brother, we are Canadians.

For the fist of the big brother, we are Cubans.

Every time I touch Cuban soil I feel a mixture of joy and sadness, as I said before, and It comes to my memories the first night in my new country, Canada. Every time I hold out my two passports to the official dressed in green in Cuba, I feel my heart split in two pieces, and I can’t reconcile my feelings.

We are the two leaves of the same tree, but deep inside us the roots are missing. It is the wound committed by the Cuban Revolution: a divided family; a divided country; a divided identity.