Several months ago, the Cuban writer Leonardo Padura said that “there are numerous inconsistencies that have to be resolved before Cuba can again become a normal country.”
Since he didn’t specify what inconsistencies he had on his mind, I took the liberty of interpreting his words myself and came to the following conclusion. We are living in a country divided in two – a part of our nation lives on the island, a part in the exile; there are communists and non-communists; there are people who want to leave and others who want to stay. Now, how could there be any friendship among Cubans? How could there be any feelings of altruism, selflessness, support, sincerity and purity?
Raul Castro made it clear a few months ago: “It hurts us to see the steep decline in moral and civic values over the 20 years of the Special Period. Values like honesty, decency, conscientiousness, grace, honour and interest in problems of others.”
About a year ago, a friend of mine gave me a valuable lesson on that. I learned that friends are no longer “grateful like a dog” (I borrowed this phrase from the poem Agradecido como un perro/Grateful Like a Dog by Rafael Alcides Perez). Nowadays, people only knock on the door of friendship when they need something. My best friend, with whom I always shared my portion of legumes as well as the little or almost nothing in my pocket, and above all, with whom I used to spend my scarce spare time, a friend to whom I have given a dog to make him company and have fun with, this friend showed me his true face – a face that my eyes had not been able to see before. The disappointment I felt forced me to do what an increasing number of Cubans are doing: seek refuge in the love of my pets.
This February 14, the Day of Love and Friendship (because friendship is also love), I will remember all my childhood friends, although I don’t miss them much thanks to all the faithful beings I live with: my dog Pope, the Pekinese Mei Li, the sweet and tender Tina (in honour of Tina Modotti), Tintin, the clever chihuahua Coquito and my mischievous white cat.
Even though the only true friendship left in Cuba is in the name of one of Havana streets – “Amistad” (Friendship), I don’t mind. I will always feel grateful like a dog on remembering all the great friends I had as a child. I’m proud to keep all these names still in my memory.