One Year Later

Twelve months have passed since the first group of former prisoners of conscience from the group of the 75 arrived to Spain, as product of an unexpected dialogue between the regime of Havana, the Cuban Catholic Church, and the Spanish government- set in motion by the pressure of the internal Cuban opposition and the international community.  That’s how more than 7 years of anguish ended for our families.  During this process, some other Cuban political prisoners and their families were also exiled.

When one lives far from their native land everything seems strange, extravagant, and even illusive.  However, with time I have realized that what is really strange, extravagant, and illusive is my country.  Cuba is another planet, or better said, the communists have turned our island into another planet.

I remember that upon landing in the airport of Barajas I felt a very unique feeling.  For the first time in my life, I set foot on free land.

Days after my arrival I was able to tune into Spanish television and catch a debate about the state of the nation during a congressional meeting between the diplomats.  The intervention of Mariano Rajoy, head of the opposition party, and his harsh and unscripted criticisms against the Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero led me to understand that democracy is more than just a word.  That day I realized that the real definition of democracy meant the purpose of life.  It was my first democratic lesson.

This first year of freedom has been a mixture of a strong desire to start over and also of frustrations.  Exile is very difficult for multiple reasons: the nostalgia, the new customs, the absence of certain loved ones, and staring from afar at your beloved and enslaved homeland is very harsh.  And, to these obstacles, if we add unemployment, then the suffering increases.

It is certain that I have had a roof over my head, food, free education for my son, health care, and other benefits which cover my basic needs, and not to mention, the solidarity of the Spanish people to which I will be forever grateful.  I have expressed this to the Spaniards ever since I set foot on their Iberian land.  I should also point out that I have received gestures of affection, respect, and solidarity from the Cuban exile and various international NGOs.  But even all of this does not replace the necessity for having to work and sweat to make a living.

It is incomprehensible that, after a year, none of the professionals which have arrived to Spain have been able to reestablish their titles, at least those that are able to be reestablished in that country.

My wife is specialized in medicine, with 16 years of experience from Cuba.  Her professional life is about to fade.  In 48 hours she was only able to take her medical diploma, and not the rest of her documents.  In the airport, the functionaries from the Spanish embassy told us that the titles would be re-established.  But time has passed and we have not been able to even legalize them.  The Cuban side refuses to even provide them to our relatives left in Cuba, even while a price is paid to the regime as occurs with all those who emigrate or desert the country.  I have no doubts that such a behavior is the additional punishment on behalf of the dictatorship against us.  Even in freedom, we cannot escape their cruel tentacles.

Within this year, I have had the opportunity to visit various European and South American countries.  I have been invited to these places by NGOs which always pressured the Cuban regime about our unjust imprisonment.  They wrote inspiring letters to me which also served as a protective shield against our oppressors.  With such initiatives, they strengthened my deteriorated hope while behind the bars.  Luckily, I’ve been able to thank many of these people in person, but I always emphasize my companions inside Cuba.  They, the Cuban democrats, deserve all the possible attention because they are the most vulnerable to the dictatorship’s repression.  They live with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, and even then they challenge the government.  In each phone call Felix Navarro, Pedro Arguelles, Librado Linares, Ivan Hernandez and others tell me the same thing: “Pablo, we will continue the struggle until our country is in freedom and until you all, who wish to return, can do so”.

During this rapidly passing year, I have maintained the idea of returning to Cuba once it is democratic and when I no longer run the risk of being jailed again for my political ideas.  It may seem odd, but the more time passes, I feel it more necessary to walk down the streets of my hometown and to visit Pedro Arguelles or other nonviolent dissidents.

It is certain that here I have freedom, internet, that I can write without fear of backlash, and I live in the First World.  But it is not enough.  I need more, I need to see my island in freedom, to live together with my people and help reconstruct the ruins left behind by more than 50 years of communist totalitarianism.  I pray that my time in exile is not too long.

The major challenge for an exiled person is finding a job, and in Spain the situation is very complex.  At this very moment, the statistics of unemployment surpasses the 5 million mark, according to governmental sources.  In addition, there are no visible solutions to  the problem, at least in my opinion.  My wife and I tried to find work in any field because we want to earn our living with our labor.  We need to restart our lives and that has not been possible in Spain.

For this reason, after analyzing the situation time and time again, my wife and I drew up to possibilities- either leave Spain or stay.  We decided to pack our bags and travel down the path which brought us to Europe, but down another direction.  Fortunately, the US government opened its doors yet again to Cuban exiles and they have allowed us to integrate ourselves into this country under a special visa.

We set off with the hope of finding the path which would help us reconstruct our lives and give our best to the cause of freeing our country.  And I am grateful to Spain which also received me with open doors when I needed it the most.  I sincerely hope that they may get out of the economic crisis they are living through.

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