In a land surrounded by water, the sailor is the link to the other side, the bearer of images that the islander cannot leave to see. In the case of Cuba, someone who works on a ship can also buy abroad many products unavailable in local markets. A kind of Ulysses who, after months at sea, brings home a suitcase full of trinkets for the family. The sailor who brings household appliances destined for the black market in the hold of the ship, makes fashions arrive earlier than the bureaucrats of domestic commerce had planned.
For several decades, to be a “merchant sailor” was to belong to a select fraternity who could go beyond the horizon and bring things never seen in these latitudes. The first jeans, tape recorders, and gum that I ever saw in my life were transported by these lucky crew members. The same thing happened with digital clocks, color televisions and some cars that bore no resemblance to the unattractive Russian Ladas and Moskoviches.
For the relatives of a sailor, the long months of absence are softened by the economic balm from ports-of-call with cheaper prices and better quality than in Cuban shops. When they reach the age to retire and drop anchor, then they can live on what they’ve been able to transport, and the images that remain in memory.
I am telling this whole story of boats, masts and the informal market because of Oscar, the husband of the blogger of Sin Evasion, whom they are threatening to expel from his job as a sailor. The motive: Miriam Celaya’s decision to drop her mask and to continue writing her opinions with her face uncovered. The punishment: leaving the family without the support it relies on. For her to navigate freely on the web, he may lose his chance to sail the waters.
*From the children’s song: Little Paper Boat