As I watched the video of President Obama and the Obama family stepping off the plane in Cuba, I couldn’t help but taste deep bitterness. Malia and Sasha and Michelle shook the hands of Cuban officials, and I seethed. I can’t quite place the feeling—a mix of envy, anger, and confusion.
The embargo wasn’t working: clear. And yet, shaking the hands of those that commit crimes against their own people—or those that work for, and participate in, a government that violates human rights daily—feels unjust. And then I hear my Abuelos, at too many family dinners, telling stories of those left behind (with emotional strain in their voice). They cushion these stories with jokes layered in a thick Spanish deemed “foreign” here; they tell anecdotes about finding a chicken in the backyard, and risking physical detainment, just for eating it; they tell stories that feel “made up”, but which I know are not.
I don’t know the answer moving forward, and change did/does need to happen. I am glad that something is shifting. But I’m just not sure that the Castro’s are anything more than “the Castro’s”, and whether the low hum of revolution will continue to buzz and—at some point—catch fire, or whether the continued lull of injustice will remain the national anthem of a place that tastes and smells and reminds of home, and a place which I have never myself been.
All I know on my end are stories; stories not my own and yet—nonetheless—they are my blood, eyes, lips, and hands. And this may very well be a first step, but let's acknowledge all the steps, and injustices, that have come before - and caused much of this tension.
I don’t necessarily care what we build; let’s just build something better. And maybe not shake the hands of people who hold an entire country hostage for decades.
Or, at least, not shake their hands that often.
Con Arroz y Congri y Yuca y Platanos and all the other delicious stuff and love,
A Daughter of Cuban Refugees