The Wounds Have Not Yet Healed

Ernesto Ramirez left Cuba thirty years ago. He has not returned since. His friends tell him that the situation is different now.  However, in his mind, he does not harbor the idea of even planning a trip to visit his homeland. For him, the wounds have not yet healed.

The passing of time has not been able to erase his last days on the island from his mind: the process to obtain an exit permit, the payment of his debts, the loss of all his possession. Thus it us decreed in the laws of the revolutionary government.

“Measures to take with personal property or real estate, or of any other object of value, etc. for anyone who, with unforgivable disdain, abandons the national territory.”  That is the first paragraph of Law Number 989, established on December 1961, which allows the nationalization, by means of confiscation, of all the goods belonging to emigrants.

Decrees, instructions, and agreements between the governmental systems make the strict measures of the mentioned law effective. Ramirez was not able to sell, or even donate, his possessions. He had to give them all up to the State, in exchange for nothing.

In order for his exit of the country to become effective, he had to first pay for the car which the State had confiscated from him.  The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) counted everything he had in his house: plates, cups, knives, blankets, furniture, etc.

Just days before his flight, the CDR put a seal on his property, after they had made sure that all of the inventory mentioned was counted.  He had to pass by the police station and hand over the official property of the house and the car keys.  He spent his remaining days and nights over at some friend’s house.

At the entrance of the airport, on the day of his trip, the metal detector began to go off for him, notifying the custom authorities.  They noticed that Ernesto still kept his Virgin of Charity necklace, his watch, and his marriage ring.  He then had to remove all of this in some discrete office.  He had to choose between losing his flight or signing a paper in which he consented to voluntarily give in those items.

With only two shirts, one pair of pants, and two sets of underwear, Ernesto Ramirez began his life all over again. He didn’t only start from scratch, he also was born again. He has not forgotten the games he would play with his childhood friends or the first kiss from his first adolescent love. Yet, those memories become minimized once he thinks of the pain of re-living his last days in Cuba. Today, he feels as if nothing belongs to him in his native land.

For the government, it was a simple act of performing inventory and of confiscating. For him, it meant losing everything which he had worked for with his labor and sweat. It was the punishment he deserved for seeking opportunities outside of Cuba. He paid a lot for something that does not have a price: freedom.

Translated by Raul G.

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