By the path of desolation towards the season of hope

By: Leonardo M. Fernández Otaño

Leonardo M. Fernández Otaño

On February 23 of this year I left for Spain for a period of two months and a fortnight, but as my grandmother said, “we are always in God’s hands”. I came with a heart full of joy to be able to be in the land of my great-grandparents and eager to meet dear friends; how excited I was to visit the heritage sites I had longed for… from the Prado, San Lorenzo del Escorial to the old Toledo.

In addition, every minute in these lands was a fight against the clock so that I could consult all the file funds that I had programmed for my doctoral research. In the distance we could hear about the new coronavirus as a distant disease affecting the Chinese city of Wuhan, although by that date it was already spreading throughout the Asian giant. He then invaded northern Italy and soon reached the Iberian Peninsula.

In Spain many thought it was a slight flu, however, a friend’s father immediately alerted me: “No, Leo, this is serious business.” On 9 March, when I arrived from Barcelona to Madrid, I decided not to leave the house where I was welcomed by brothers who were older from a Jesuit community. The fear of being the source of contagion terrified me.

They, in very different ways, have been my main support. Some accompany me from the joy of their jokes and jokes; others, from their love of knowledge; my favorites, the sickest, have been a sign of inner sensitivity because of the fragility of their health. The latter, without saying a word, reminded me of Pope Francis’ invitation to avoid the culture of discarding, which unfortunately affects many young people when we decide to cast aside those who torment us, because they are not at their best or because they hinder our moments of intoxicated happiness. It is the widespread tendency to rid ourselves of the burden of caring for Grandpa.

To share these moments of encounter, mutual support and inner desolation that I have lived during this long period in Spain (where I am still in), I would like to talk about the two horizons that have occupied my mind and my heart in this time: my experience with the virus and the social situation that Cuba lives.

Endless quarantine

I never thought I’d be almost sixty-five days without leaving my room, facing long moments of tribulation and inner fracture. On March 31, I felt a little fever and the community brothers, seeing what was going on in the health environment, asked me to stay in the room. Thus began a long journey full of suffering, uncertainty and even loss of faith. If I said otherwise, I would be a liar: I thought I was an atheist for days, I felt imprisoned by depression, I lost the urge to read, to study, I only ate, watch movies and, to comfort myself in the most breaking moments, listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concerto of Aranjuez.

But the worst was yet to come. The month of April has been one of the saddest I will ever remember. The virus came to our door and he owned our lives. Community life had to be suppressed. Then the hospitalizations began, twelve brothers were interned, some returned home, but others are already with Father Good. I confess that each improvement was an incentive, but every death was a setback, I remember that of a brother I took great care of, he died the day I was first postponed the return flight. When I heard about his departure, I felt the world coming down.

One day they started getting the PCRs and serologies. The result was to some extent a relief for me, I had suffered from the virus asymptomaticly and was immune, but at the same time community care was imposed because some of the older ones were not. Since then that ghost doesn’t come out of my head and every step I take is accompanied by fear of the virus, which is still there.

Now that I review my yesterday and my today, I believe that to get out of solitude and sadness, which still give me the impossibility of being able to return home, look for so many forms of comfort: from neflitx’s excessive use of networks, an unusual consumption for me of fantasy series to rereading Lorca. By the time I write these letters we already live the second wave of the virus and the city of Alcalá de Henares, where I reside, is in partial confinement.

Binoculars to the Antillean alligator

How many times have I longed to kiss my land again! A lot of people have called me crazy, “How are you going to get back?” I’ve been told. Humanly I feel it is crazy to return to a land where authoritarianism reigns and where we all try to survive in the “fight”. But the great rudder that drives me has two bras: my love for a different future for Cuba and my Christian commitment to truth and reconciliation.

The images that reach this corner of Castile, as I usually say, are desolating: immense queues, arbitrariness that violate the stipulations of constitutional legislation until the massive explosion of vulgarity. How can I not feel identified and at the same time hurt by the reality of so many parents and grandparents who despair to seek the basics? Anguish hurts me deep when I see them lined up to enter stores that right now constitute a laceration to the dignity of the honest and hard-working Cuban. I also think about the future, as a young man I have dreams and hopes, I want an inclusive, democratic and participatory nation, away from so many sociopolitical masks. Where the expression “shut up that it can cost you dearly” is not our daily bread.

Someone will say, “What does this have to do with the pandemic?” Much, for a nation without freedom of thought and opportunity is a failed project. Every message I get from a friend saying “I’m leaving because I can’t take it anymore,” I find it bleak, but how much I understand them. My fear is that it will one day be the one to communicate it to my parents. When I read those words that come to me via nets, I keep wondering who we’re going to change our tropical macondo with. While we are all called to do so, the presence of unprejudged leaders with group consciousness is necessary. Some may feel that I have given “a little tooth,” as an alum used to say, but it is necessary to share the dreams for each day to walk towards their materialization.

Resuming our daily life, how much suffering has caused me to contemplate the long queues and listen to the pifias of some political actors, for whom everything is going great and the spread of the virus is only the fault of the irresponsible city that throws parties. The last thing, I think, has been the empire of incivility. After the time, it is impossible for me to think that Cubans do not get infected in the long queues in order to access the basics, which already before the Covid was quite difficult, because we always live in the eternal junctures and waiting as mana for the promised well-being.

I also suffer greatly from sitting at the table and seeing my hearty dish in delicious Castilian delicacies. I think of my family and friends, who survive on a day-to-day trip trying to buy what is necessary to bring to the table; only the one who loves knows how much can be suffered. I think of the elders of my parish, whose dining room that kept them, has had to close, because it is impossible to get food.

But I have also felt the desolation of many Cubans who live outside and suffer for their own, who do not have the basics. Soon, allow God, I can go back and share my luck with my people and lose in Olympic tails the extra kilos I have gained during this time. I’ll finally be with mine, hopefully this whole nightmare is over, I’m sure I’ll feel more Cuban, but more willing to believe in hope.

I hope soon for a long journey, which I do not yet know how to return me to my island, fragile, decadent and thirsty for a prosperous future that is increasingly distant to you. I will continue to believe in God, who never disappoints, I will try to continue walking on that long road like that of the train, which is called desolation. I will do my best to continue building, contributing and giving my best to one day reach the increasingly distant season called hope. Excuse me so rudely, but I think the head of a lot of young Cubans is like this, let God be the only one.

Alcalá de Henares, October 2, 2020.

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