I knew Cuba would be different. Not merely for its history, politics, migration laws, limited connection and its relationship with the country I currently reside in. But because I had a responsibility as a maker to capture all the stories I possibly could and be able to re-tell them somehow. I knew I had to meet every stranger I encountered. That I had to feel things from every single individual I was in contact with and not back down. Because not a lot of people, especially Cubans, have that same opportunity. I felt it was my duty as a creative and also as a fellow Puerto Rican. “Cuba y Puerto Rico: de un pájaro dos alas” is what Cubans would smile and say as soon as I mentioned where I was from (Cuba and Puerto Rico: from one bird, two wings).
I learned that Cuba doesn’t need our pity. Truthfully, we could all use a little bit of Cuba in our lives. This is how this country differs from the rest. Constantly opting for and seeking First World countries along with their commodities is a pretty easy thing to do. We're quick to fall in love with them. They promise the “dream”. They all have something we think we want. Whether it’s beautiful architecture, the luxuries, the attainability of their quality of life…you name it, the possibilities are pretty endless, sure.
But I encourage you to seek the raw, the hardship, the core and the real human condition of it all. The one that’s not at the top of your list perhaps. The one where you have to look within, interact and look at people in the eye instead of at your smartphone in order to “get by”. The one that is “stuck in time”…or perhaps truly living IN time? And the people that reside there with the highest literacy rates that do everything in their hands to escape those same obstacles. The ones that buy “El Paquete” (last week’s American TV recordings) and have the two jobs (which is all cubans, by the way) to get a little bit more than their $20 monthly salary – because those are some of the best people you will ever meet. Those are the ones we could all learn from.
That’s why Cuba was more special than any other place I’ve been to or will ever be in. Because we don’t all deserve to go. Yet I had the opportunity to. And the world doesn’t deserve such a marvelous island. It was only 5 days. 5 days where time stood still, and I’m aware I couldn’t possibly explain or have seen it all in that short amount of time. But I can try to tell it through my lens. It’s the only way I know how.
Freedom is a subjective word, after all, and it cannot be measured. And as a good friend said: "Instead of looking to save a country, let the country save you."