Maria Dominguez is standing in front of me. An 80-year-old woman, her small eyes moist and sad. The story of her life is rather common – like many Cuban mothers she has been living separated from her children due to arbitrary and inhuman laws that have been in force for half a century. Yes, there are many like her, all sharing their suffering of people whose lives are not governed by fate but by a dictator, who considers himself the only master of the country.
Maria comes from Bauta, a village south-west from the capital of Havana. A simple woman living with her cats, she needs only few things for her life. Her life story reminds me of that of Hilda Molina, Cuban neurosurgeon, who waited for fifteen years for Fidel Castro’s permission to travel to Argentina to get reunited with her son and the rest of her family.
Cuban laws have ruined Maria’s life. Her son, a released political prisoner, left Cuba in 1988. Maria was denied Exit Permit. There was no chance for her – to assert the common right to leave and enter the country was of no avail because the rights of Cuban citizens were determined by the State as the sovereign authority.
Maria is mentally alert enough to realize all the cynicism of the new immigration law signed by president Raul Castro in January this year – the law whose aim is, as its text stipulates, “to ensure that migratory movements are legal, orderly and safe”.
Maria will also never forget her young nephew, who died in the Straits of Florida like hundreds of thousands of other Cubans who decided to flee the country after being denied travel permit – the devilish “White Card”, which was issued or denied by the Cuban Immigration Department as it pleased.
One day, Maria came across a text by Jose Marti, which said: “Tyranny is always the same despite the various forms it can take, even if they have beautiful names or emerge as big events.” After reading this, she threw away her military clothes and certificates of acknowledgement and finished with the Castro dictatorship forever. She felt as if she had been relieved from a heavy burden.
Almost thirty years have passed since that moment. Maria’s health status makes it impossible for her to travel now and she knows that it’s even too late to dream.