September 7, 2011 – Via E-mail
Oswardo – Age – Late 20’s; Birthplace – Havana, Cuba; Residence In July, 2011 – Havana, Cuba; New Residence –Venezuela; Occupation – Student, Computer Science; Husband of Yoana
One year ago, distant relatives managed to get some cash to me, to begin the process of escaping from Cuba via public transport, as opposed to a raft or inner tube. The rule here is that if you can find a country that will accept you, probably because you have a family member already in the country, you must deposit a sum of money, which differs depending on the country to which you will travel, and leave the funds in the bank for six months. Once the deposit has been in the bank for six months, you apply for an exit visa. You must assign the account to the government. If you do not return to Cuba, the government retains the money, and presumably shares a portion of it pursuant to agreement with the other country.
My distant relative is a cousin who lives in the United States. I also have a relative in Panama. The cousin met the Panamanian relative in the international airport in Panama, as the cousin traveled to another country. My cousin delivered cash, which in the case of travel to Venezuela is $1,000 per adult traveler. The Panamanian was on the way to Cuba to visit, and brought the cash in. It may not sound like a huge sum of money, but if you understand what people receive in wages in Cuba, you would understand the complete impossibility of stockpiling the cash.
It took many trips to the government offices to apply for, follow up on, and finally receive the exit visa. Now, I have it in my hands.
The sad note is that I am traveling alone. I cannot take my family. I will attempt to make a life for them and get the out when I can. Although it sounds harsh to leave a wife and young child behind, it is the only way, and I know many, many other families who have done so, from the 50s to the present.
Now I wait, with great anticipation, fear, anxiety, shame, and so many other conflicting emotions I cannot put them into words.