Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"I can't believe this is happening and I am here" Cuba, December 17, 2014

I returned to Cuba in December 2014 on a Photography Workshop led by Photographer Lorne ResnickWhat follows is quoted from my journal written exactly as I wrote it on December 17.

in a small village near Trinadad, Cuba

We are on the bus leaving the festival to have lunch:  Lorne looks at his Cuban cell phone, stares at it, and then screams "Holy Shit!"

Magdalia's iPhone rings, she answers, then with a look of disbelief she says to Lorne "Allan Gross is free!  The Cuban 3 are free!", then speaks rapid Spanish into her phone.  Lorne shouts to all of us "Sven just texted me, Allan Gross and the Cuban 3 are free!  Obama and Fidel have agreed!"  He shouts "Holy Shit!" again as he stares at the text messages coming in, "We have diplomatic relations, Obama is speaking at noon".  A cheer goes up in the bus, we cannot believe it.

5 minutes later we pull up to the restaurant, we race inside, and spot a small TV over the bar.  The owner is greeting us, the musicians are playing but we all rush to the TV screen which has Obama's face on it but a translator is speaking Spanish.  We motion to the musicians, "stop playing, its OK, come see the TV"!

A lady runs up and hugs me and says something in Spanish, the look on her face is pure joy and I start to cry.  We hug and watch the TV together and she keeps saying the same thing over and over, I keep saying "I can't believe this is happening and I am here!"  The bartender tells me she is saying "I can't believe it, I can't believe it!" 

The speech goes on and everyone, Cubans and Americans, all listen intently.  Magdalia and the bartender translate quietly for those of us standing closest to them, a cheer goes up as Obama announces the resumption of diplomatic relations.

I remember my camera an try taking photos but I can't get the picture of Obama in the tiny TV and all of us in the photo at the same time.  I shoot for the face of Obama on the TV and hope the Spanish subtitles will be readable in my picture.
We are hungry so when the speech ends we move to the buffet table and the Cubans go about their jobs of serving our lunch.  Seeing them working when they probably want to be celebrating bothers me.  After coffee is served Tamara suggests that we take up a collection and buy all the Cubans a bottle of the really good rum.  It is done.

CJ goes to the bar and gets a tray with empty glasses, Tamara speaks Spanish and asks them to all stop working, come out of the kitchen, the gift shop and the bar.  CJ makes his rounds with the tray of glasses and Tamara follows with a large bottle of the very good 25 year old rum.  The Cuban's faces glow, some look astonished.
The bartender speaks in English and thanks us for the rum and celebration and says what we are all thinking, "We can't believe that we Cubans are standing here with you Americans at such an important moment in the history of our two countries." 

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