Yes, it’s magical realism. Sometimes more evident, sometimes less. But the way one lives on this island at times verges on the incredible, and one has to remember that we live in a land of exceptions, comic or ironic, cruel or terribly sad, where everything can be believed.
It so happens that a friend of mine recently realized that to be able to enjoy certain attractions in Cuba she needs to first show a passport certifying her status as a foreigner or a Cuban residing overseas. She learned her lesson during a visit to one of the hotels of warm beaches and frozen coconut desserts that most of her compatriots have never known.
She was on the arm of her husband, an Italian national she married in 2004, who she lives (to this day) legally in Cuba. Somebody else was also holding her hand: little Dimitri, their son, who’s 4-years-old.
Obviously she was able to visit that tropical paradise, located in Holguin province, thanks to her husband’s money. My friend is a dentist who graduated with a golden diploma. Her husband, a native of Florence, has worked in everything from fixing windows in the Galleria degli Uffizi to working as a mason. Words from his own mouth.
They both knew that her academic achievements were useless when it comes to paying for leisure activities or feeding Dimitri well. (I think I also know that, harsh as it seems, without his money the marriage would never have been possible). But this incident showed them that there were still some things to learn.
Damn the Florentine husband for believing in the enjoyments that one can so easily access in his home country. The moment he asked to use one of those fast jetskis we usually see in the hands of tourists, riding the waves of our beaches, he understood a harsh fact of life in Cuba, a fact George Orwell would describe thus: even though the hotel contract says all guests are equal, some guests are more equal than others.
The friendly hotel employee asked, before delivering the vehicle, to see both of their passports and their son’s. Taken aback, the husband showed him the bracelets worn by all guests. And then the employee patiently explained:
“Only foreigners or Cubans residing overseas can ride motor vehicles. Cubans can ride on a beach bicycle or a surf board, but not on anything with an engine. Cubans have access to the beach bikes, the surf boards, but not to anything with a motor.”
The Italian man tried in vain to explain (first calmly, then feeling insulted) that he had been living in Cuba for years with his wife and little Dimitri, and that this rule made no sense to him. Read the rest of this entry »