26 April 2016

Nostalgia Without Memory


Had a great conversation with someone who shares the same recent heritage as myself.

I say recent because before the national identity of this place made history, the heritage hailed from another place, and that place had its own identity... and so it follows the further back one goes.

This gentleman's parents also left the island that experienced a definitive ideological change two generations ago.

This change left much damage in its wake with few triumphs.

The damage was not only economical, but social and psychological.

A triumph was education and eventual food independence after the supportive eastern regime collapsed.

Skills have been exported ( doctors, for example ) along with enough drama to capture the attention of the world, inspiring Ernest Hemingway and many others of the art world.

Families were separated and emigrating relatives placed throughout the nation of immigrants.

The Cuban Diaspora.

Although our parents eventually settled in different cities at opposite sides of a new country, our language and its nuances stayed the same.

Hearing about his recent trip to visit relatives he most likely never met before, I couldn't help but feel some nostalgia... although I have no memories of a place I have never visited.

The nostalgia arises from our similar stories, or the stories of our parents and their parents.

One story that struck me deeply was about a relative of his who owned a thriving gas station.

This relative's gas station was located at the base of the mountains where the insurgent revolutionaries hid away until their final victorious decent into the rest of the country.

The revolutionaries would take provisions as needed and kept a tab with the station's owner.

When the revolution was realized, the new government kept their end of the agreement and paid back the tab in full.

This surprised me.

However, two weeks later, members of this same new government arrived at the gas station and arrested the owner.

He was charged with hoarding a large amount of money ( the very money the new government had recently paid him ).

This man also happened to have in his possession the titles to many adjacent properties.

This was another charge leveled against him.

When the townspeople appeared in court in his defense, they stated that they had placed their titles with this man because he owned a safe and he was trusted among his peers.

This defense was ignored and the man was jailed.

A political prisoner.

My fellow exported compatriot told me that many influential men were railroaded in the very same manner... some being summarily executed.

This is the testimony of those who saw atrocities first-hand, but haven't had a voice to express their sentiments in almost 60 years.

I learned that the current monthly income, whether doctor or construction worker, is $24.

A fixed low wage sapped incentive to work, since more work wouldn't be seen in more income.

So a variety of side jobs and side businesses have survived alongside and in lieu of official jobs and rationing.

Party affiliates are the only class of people who enjoy a moderate modern existence, but as my new friend shares, the people mostly care less about the consumerist society the American mind has produced.

They are more concerned about relatives, about enjoyment of life and about, perhaps, righting the wrongs.

Until I visit and see and hear for myself, I shall wonder from afar at what God will have in store for the future of this island and its place in the eventual unification of the world's people under a single flag.

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