My First Check

Ever since I was exiled to Spain by the Cuban authorities nearly more than 16 months ago, I have enjoyed many joyful moments.  The most important, of course, has been reuniting with my family.

It has also been unforgettable to be able to finally breathe in freedom, to meet with students in London and Venice, or with human rights activists in Berlin, Chile, Peru, and Poland, where I had the honor to shake hands with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa.  I have also been able to dialogue with political leaders that are in favor of the Cuban cause for freedom.  They have been moments of my life which I will never forget.

Today, I have received my first check, earned by my own sweat, and what I feel is difficult to put into words, for I have finally found a path which has given me the opportunity to feel like a human being.

The Vilarino family, which so profoundly shares the pain of Cuban political prisoners, has extended their hand to me and have offered me a job in one of their restaurants.  It is very gratifying to experience that human solidarity as soon as we arrive in exile, knocking on doors.  Those doors actually open, allowing us to move forward.

It is a gift from life to be able to say what you think in your workplace whenever you have the chance.  It is even more of a gift to not sense fear of being fired from work just for your political ideas.  It is very formidable to be able to work without accepting double standards and without betraying one’s own ideals.  What matters is that you fulfill your duties and that you be honest.

Earning my first check has allowed me to pay off some bills and to do so is magnificent.

Upon receiving this first payment for my work, I think back on the times when I was expelled from jobs in my country just for being a dissident of the communist doctrine, or for not signing documents with which I was not in favor of.  The political police forces administrators to learn their scripts and they would always tell me: “you are not reliable because of your political position“.  I would laugh, but with pain.  Those of us who lived through such experiences know that it was the regime’s method of economically suffocating us.  And they can do that because in Cuba, the only employer is the regime.

Just yesterday, in my own nation, I was suffering because I was kept from working in any field to buy my family food just because of my political ideas, but today I thank God that I have a job and that I can make a living off of my own efforts and my freedom.

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