Friday, April 15, 2016

Cuba's exiles face a transitional stage

Cuba's exiles face a transitional stage
MICHAEL H. MIRANDA | Arkansas | 14 Abr 2016 - 6:02 pm.

President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba last March prompts the pondering
of some questions about the present and future of Cuba's community of
exiles. Is it on its way to becoming a historical fiction, or is it just
refusing to recognize its "post" status?

Exile always entailed the refusal to negotiate with those in power.
However, over the years it has seen its positions diversify and its
angst dissipate as relations between the exile community and the Island
became more fluid. Certain steps taken by the Cuban government after
1993 - the possibility of sending remittances, the arrival of several
weekly flights linking various American cities with different locations
on the island, among others - were just the beginning of a trend
spurring people to rethink things, and whether it makes sense today for
one to declare himself, know and feel himself to be, a Cuban exile, and
whether it is appropriate to demand that anyone identify himself as such.

There is a process of rapprochement underway between the two
governments. When officials with the regime are engaging in talks with
Cuban-American businessmen, when a growing number of Cubans are
regularly travelling to the island, when those arriving view Miami more
like a place to make deals and blow off steam than a site of struggle,
when money does not discriminate between a former political prisoner and
a former official of the Government, who is not even repentant; when the
economic isolation is being dismantled, and school uniforms are even
being bought at little stores in Hialeah, just what exactly is what we
call "exile" and what does it consist of? Does the change of mask also
imply a transformation of its essence? How are we to reconsider their
story, then? Is it time to bury forever the terminology associated with
the status of "exile" and move on to another concept? Is what has
certainly been the most polarized and irreconcilable relationship in the
history of Cuba, even after 17-D, going to be defused?

There is still a school of public opinion whose discourse is firmly
rooted in the exile identity. The paradox is that the community of
exiles seems to grow old without being replenished, as apparently it is
incapable of enlisting new parties identifying with its raison d'etre.
These exiles' collective vision, ratified in 1980 with the Mariel
Boatlift, which frustrated attempts at dialogue that some groups wanted
to undertake with the Cuban government, was undermined by the balseros
crisis, the issuance of 20,000 annual visas, the Elián González affair,
and also the preference for and predominance of Europe as a destination
among young intellectuals leaving the island.

Now Obama's visit has once again eroded the very concept of el exilio.
More than a few pointed out that only two "retrograde" classes opposed
the unavoidable presidential tour: the Cuban government (remaining true
to its Cold War, reactionary and repressive core), and the "recalcitrant
exile community in Miami." Equating these two groups is unfair to the
exiles, to say the least. Time and history have conspired to dismantle,
one by one, along with the Castro regime, the exile community's
foundations. In the end, after so many decades, the one is dependent on
the other, and they are destined to die together.

With each group of Cubans crossing through Customs into the free world,
the question of just who these people are resurfaces, and whether that
idea which for decades we referred to as el exilio even makes sense any
longer. The old exile community had always been associated with a fairly
homogeneous set of political positions, centering on the fall of the
regime as a precondition for returning to the country. For many that was
what exile was all about: the incapacity or inability to return to a
place from which we were excluded or expelled.

With Cuba it turned out that, when the time came, returning was actually
technically possible – though the regime always reserved a humiliating
right to deny entry. But the original reasons for the exile remained
intact. Not just anyone is an exile, but rather one who chooses to defy
the governing authority. This political notion of the fleeing individual
is what has been chipping away at the very idea of exile.

Exile, as a category, however, from Hannah Arendt to Edward Said and
Giorgio Agamben, has always been more complex, porous and, therefore,
slippery, resisting attempts to be studied and characterized from a
single perspective. Rather, it has tended to be continually redefined.
We knew little about Russian and Eastern European exiles fleeing
Communism, and much more about Spanish and South American ones escaping
military dictatorships, as their stories were glorified by leftist
rhetoric, which denigrated Cuban exiles and viewed them as ideological

The exile community is also undergoing a transitional stage, which began
long before December 17, 2014. The very personal nature of exile will be
bolstered, which is what ends up conspiring against the very idea of an
exile identity, and it will be necessary to define the community's
political presence and its role in the Island's future.

Just as the opposition on the island has changed, so has its exiles, who
today must discuss how to proceed with their decades-long struggle,
knowing that, save for some symbolic elements, there is no longer any
chance for restitution, and the wounds cannot be closed. Both groups
should continue to demand urgent political changes. Economically the
state of the country is so deplorable that reconstruction is unthinkable
without the presence of the exiles, which have long been, in fact, those
who sustain much of the island's economy.

Who, then, shall dare to extend to the community of exiles its death
certificate? I wouldn't. Not yet.

Source: Cuba's exiles face a transitional stage | Diario de Cuba -

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