Tuesday, March 13, 2012

For Cubans, Nassau Is a Magical City

Yoani Sanchez - Award-winning Cuban blogger

For Cubans, Nassau Is a Magical City
Posted: 03/12/2012 11:00 pm

She climbs the stairs of the plane. In her handbag she carries glasses,
a bit of a sandwich she couldn't finish eating, and the passport that
identifies her as a Spanish citizen. But it is not yet the time to show
it. While in Cuban territory she can only show the other one, the blue
one with its shield displaying a solitary palm, which declares she was
born in Havana. She has already gone through customs, gracefully passing
by the official who checked her permission to leave, and has paid,
reluctantly, the excessive airport tax. The loudspeakers announce that
her plane is leaving for the Bahamas, and she knows she is about to
experience a transformation. She doesn't even listen when the flight
attendant welcomes her aboard, nor does she notice the lit signal that
alerts her to fasten her seatbelt. Her mind is concentrated on the
stripping of one citizenship and the assumption of another, shaking off
the fence of insularity to feel part of the world.

Like her, many other compatriots take a flight to Nassau with the
intention of using their Spanish nationality. They leave Cuba showing a
national ID and land on the island of New Providence presenting their
other identity as members of the European Union. The transformation
occurs in the air, in the miles that separate the Antilles from the
Bahamas, in that strip of blue that separates the two archipelagos.
Doing this will allow them to enter the territory of the United States
without a visa, avoiding the suspicious looks at the checkpoints where
they arrive. Lynden Pindling International Airport is the place of
metamorphosis, the place to assert the dual nationality that is not
recognized in their own country.

And later comes the moment of return, of experiencing the mutation
again, but in reverse. The plane lands at Terminal 5 in our capital, and
family members keep their eyes peeled, searching for the new arrival. A
customs official reels off the questions, and they send her into a room
to have her luggage minutely searched. At the bottom of her handbag
rests her Spanish passport, that red-covered booklet she saves to return
someday to Nassau, to that magical island where, unlike Alice's mirror,
the world is not reflected in reverse but to the right.


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