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Hell on the Highway

28 Apr

From time to time, I get on a truck that takes me to the eastern most of Cuban provinces, Guantanamo.  I always go wondering if I’ve gotten used to the stink of backpacks with packed lunches, live animals and the smelly shoes and clothing of the passengers that compose the group of travelers.  It is the least expensive truck on that route, for three Cuban dollars, you can go from one province to another.

Between the exhaust that gets inside the truck from the engine and the people who smoke, each trip is hell.  Every five kilometers there’s an inspector, a policeman or some functionary who stops the driver to let him know they will conduct a search.  Later on, they board the truck to look at the packages of each one of the passengers.  The metal seats, the exhaust fumes, my blackened face, and the haggard looks on the faces of the women beside me – the Cuban geography goes by us at about 70 kilometers per hour.  Sometimes I look out and see cars going by, Ladas and the latest model Toyotas driven by people who look like managers.  And I think to myself about my patience and the patience of all Cubans.

I read the official press out of respect for Sonia who, before she got off told me “Don’t ever stop reading the lies they tell, because that’s the code to understanding everything.”  But I cannot decipher those codes which are wrapped up in the excuses of the “American blockade, imperialist invasion or climate change.”

Translated by: Hank

Act of Seizure/Return

14 Apr

On March 24, when I was taken to Pedernales, the “Villa Marista” of Holguin, I thought I might have to stay just a few days, listening to the barks and threats of the young Confrontation Boss of Bayamo, which is where  they deported me from.

But the strange thing was that I wasn’t interrogated as usual or pre-judged.  This time around, a Guard from the Official Operatives, who had no desire to talk, and did not care if I was a dissident or a common criminal, emptied my backpack on the table in front of me and started to inventory my stuff.  He wrote it all down on two pieces of paper which he later asked me to sign.  There was:

A girl’s pink doll with a yellow dress, hair clips, blue hair bands (pellizcos), colored pencils, a family photo album, a pocket calendar, light brown pantyhose, two gray underpants, three pens, a tricolored towel, a striped shirt, a black pullover with words written in English (he asked me if I knew what they meant), a photographic camera (I had to correct him, it was a video camera and he did not like that), an MP3 player (I had to spell that for him)…and a few other things.

After all that, he asked me about the doll and the hair bands (pellizcos) with a tremendous look on his face of an S.O.B., but I responded and told him that it all belonged to my daughter, to which he said, Yes, but with even more of the face of an SOB, he kept on asking me, “Are you sure this is for your daughter?” To which I responded by asking if I, too, could ask a question, and he said yes, so I asked him, “C’mon boy, why of all the things in this backpack did you start to inventory them precisely because of the doll and the things for styling one’s hair?”

He got serious for a minute, so I asked him before he had a chance to think, “Do you know who Sigmund Freud was?”

But he looked away at the sheet that listed the last items: a small Bible, two letters, a cell phone, a spray bottle of perfume, a razor…

* “pellizcos” is the popular name for the clasps people use in their hair to keep it in place.

Translated by Hank