When a passport is news
In Cuba, confidence is hard to build after decades of bureaucratic opacity
The day didn't begin well. The sun seemed to start off on the wrong foot, as they say in Cuba. In the morning the authorities had informed the political prisoner Juan Ángel Moya that they would not let him leave the country, for reasons of "public interest." He was the first to find himself excluded from the migration reform announced on January 14, greeted with a mixture of hope and wariness.
My turn came in the afternoon. So I showed up at the Immigration Department to find whether, at last, the little book with blue cover stamped with the arms of the republic was ready for my use. The girl behind the window gave me an unencouraging answer, which confirmed that the day had got off to a bad start. "Come back next week. We're running behind time," she said, albeit with a nice smile.
Like any other Cuban accustomed to the opacity of the bureaucracy, I was not very confident. They had thought better of it, was the first thing that came to mind. Then I began to speculate whether the promise of letting me out had been only a carrot to induce me to shut down the blog, to silence my opinion, so that I would sit at home in perfect silence until the day of departure. I thought back over everything I had written since I applied for a passport, and gradually sank into gloom. A denunciation of the existence of drugs in Cuba; a furious criticism of the secrecy surrounding the promised Alba-1 fiber-optic cable; and a text explaining that I was not about to turn into another person just so I could cross the national border. In short, I had behaved rather badly in cyber-space and now the punishment had fallen on me - such was the sum of my thoughts during most of that Tuesday.
I kept telling myself that nowhere in the world should the issuing of a passport be news
Just as the working day was drawing to a close at the offices, doormen closing grilles on official buildings and civil servants preparing to go home, a message entered my answer machine. "Pick up the phone, it's Immigration," said a feminine voice at the other end of the line.
The first thing I wondered was how they knew I was at home. Of course, if it's the Interior Ministry they know everything, I joked before returning the call. But then the dark day brightened unexpectedly, and the same official told me that my passport was ready. In the few hours since sunrise I had gone through the oscillations of optimism, then pessimism, then a rush of enthusiasm. A concentrate of emotions like those experienced through five years in which I received as many as twenty refusals. Suspicion is not wiped out so easily, doubt is a thing that lingers.
I made my way back to the office, telling myself that nowhere in the world should the issuing of a passport be news. Nor should there be any big fuss about the question of whether a citizen can board a plane or not. But Cuba has the peculiarity of anomaly, where irregularity is the regular thing.
So as soon as I had commented on Twitter that I had my document, an avalanche of calls, congratulations and requests for interviews fell upon me. The night ended with my sister almost in tears on the line, after a year and a half in which the Strait of Florida has kept us apart.
Today I woke up with the blue booklet beside my bed. Once again I took it in my hands. The day is beginning on the right foot, I thought, as I flipped through its pages for the umpteenth time.