by Paco Feria
Story of Preconceptions and Reality
I approached you, my mind was full of half truths told by those
whose visits to you had preceded my own. I preferred to escape
these themes and wanted to find you myself and so in the first
days of the new millennium, I walked like a blind man with my
camera as my white-tipped cane.
Now I think of the loss of hope, the frustration of the proof
in those first days. The certainty of those themes they had told
me of you - seeing old white hands interlaced with tender black
hands, reaching for dollars between vapors of rum - a rhythm of
salsa. I couldn't pretend. I decided to disappear, to savor your
authentic essence. In short, to find myself lost. I didn't want
to see what thousands of eyes had seen before me. If anything,
I preferred to delude myself until I understood that my mission
wasn't on the beaches of Varadero, nor in the bars of Old Havana,
nor in the promenade by the jetties, answering a thousand and
one times when the jineteras asked me the hour. No, it wasn't
there that I had to search for you.
You were in another place, which I would discover - I found you.
You were in the red dusk of Havana, and in the white dress of
a 15-year-old girl at the brink of abandoning puberty, and in
the emotional tears of her father. You were in the shame of my
friend, an engineer in Cienfuegos forced to be a taxi driver.
You were in the cane cutters at six in the morning when the golden
light of the sun hid the loss of hope. You were in the beating
heart of the people, by the fear of the future. You were in the
soap opera of the shipwrecked child Elian. You were in the gray-haired
beard of a god who came to earth in a flash of fire to cry out,
"my country or death," in the middle of a legendary
revolution, seated with your apostles Camilo and Ernesto. I also
found you in the ration cards. I found you resisting the strong
winds that whipped your borders and threatened to leave you adrift.
Above all, I saw you in the lifeless eyes of a little blind girl
- what irony! It seemed as though she looked with hope to life
as it was remembered. As it was when I knew you, dear Cuba.
Translation Provided by: Lonny Shavelson
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Memories of Cuba