By Patty Vila, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Cuba Expert, Oct. 3, 2015 – I recently attended a “Tertulia.” What is a Tertulia? It is a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones or an informal meeting of people to talk about current events, the arts, culture, etc. The subject for this evening was how Cubans who had not been to the island in decades feel about returning to their birth nation?
Three people discussed their experiences:
Nelly talked about her paranoia. She approached the microphone and I could tell she was moved. She had tears in her eyes. She shared how when she landed, she had a sense of paranoia. The paranoia that one hears about all the time. I have to admit I clearly understood what she was referring too. I also had heard many people in the past express the same feelings. It is a feeling that many say the communist system inflicts on you.
Silvia talked about her nostalgia. She remembers walking into her hotel room and looking around for a microphone or wire on the wall. She noticed a bouquet of flowers on the table with a note. She opened the envelope that read, “Welcome to Cuba. We hope you have a pleasant stay.” She was moved. She quickly remembered her childhood when she was a little girl and would play outside with her friends, ride her horse and spend time on Sundays with the extended family at the beach.
Armando’s story really moved me. He lost both of his parents by the time he was 22. He came to America a few years later. In 2013, for the first time, he returned to Cuba and made the trip a reality. He said he felt empty inside so that is why he made the decision to travel after so many years in exile. All he wanted to do was go to Sancti Espiritu, a city that was founded in 1514, the city of his birth. Armando remembered the visit he took to his childhood home. The current family living there invited him in with open arms. He described every detail of the kitchen, bathrooms and the tiles in the home. He sat in the living room and watched TV with his family. All that raw emotion would come to the surface.
Pope Francis has said his recent flight from Cuba to the United States was symbolic of the bridge that is being built between the two countries. On Wednesday, the Pope told his weekly general audience “God always wants to build bridges. It is we who build walls. And walls fall down, always!”
Two things that were said over and over again throughout the night were reconciliation and building bridges. Since the announcement that both countries were establishing diplomatic relations, many Cuban-Americans, who had not been to Cuba, are returning. Hopefully this will begin to build a bridge and bring together the people in both countries.