Exit or Travel

I am making a new university career. It is not related to any specialty but I can obtain a diploma of “Bachelor of Circumventing the Bureaucracy.” The subjects of study are the formalities and papers required to travel outside Cuba and the assignments carry a good dose of patience, meekness and mystery. To this crash course in “paperwork” I have not come empty handed, but have dragged a decade of experience in the turmoil of procedures. There are also the multiple clashes with officials and a slow acceptance of the bad smell of the offices.

The experience of talking with bureaucrats – for those who always lack a document, a stamp or a signature – will allow me to finagle the highest grade in some areas. Nevertheless, I will have to overcome a certain predisposition to rage, an inconvenient fury when I am told, “Your paper has not come in time,” or, “Those who have to approve it are higher up.”

The end result of this exercise will be a small white card that authorizes me to leave Cuba to collect the Ortega y Gasset prize. I stress that I am not trying to “travel,” as no Cuban uses this verb for the action of going abroad. We skip, cross, leave or go; but “to travel” is too small a word when leaping over the insularity we are talking about. Even the long-awaited approval I need is known as an “exit permit” and carries with it the sound of locks that open.

I do not know how many hours have been accumulated in the lines, the legal birth certificates, the habit of requiring documents that aren’t needed, such as my vaccination card and the latest electricity bill. I do not know, but I have the feeling that the answer to my request to travel has already been decided and waits for me in a drawer. Nothing I can do could affect whether the key opens or closes the door. Meanwhile, I have come to believe that “exit” is possible.

Caption of photo:  A fragment of the form for getting a Cuban passport.

The unchecked “Revolutionary Integration” boxes are:

PCC – Communist Party of Cuba

UJC – Young Communist League

ACRC – Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution

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