I think it was in 1961, days before the nationalization of private schools, when my friend Felipe told me that his parents were going to leave Cuba because communism was coming and that this was the worst disgrace that could happen to a country. He explained that in this system children would no longer belong to their parents, that the land would no longer bear fruit, that the cows (this conversation occurred in Camaguey) would no longer give milk, and that even toothbrushes would be collective property. “If you stay here,” he told me in all seriousness, “they will send you to Russia to be brainwashed, but anyway,” he warned, “someday you will see that everything is a disaster.”
Two months later I went with my father to the literacy campaign, where I managed to teach something like six campesinos how to read, I learned to swim in the river, to ride a horse and to milk a cow. When I returned Felipe was gone and for years his premonitions made me laugh.
By July 1962, when I turned 15, I registered my name in the first edition of the ration book. For me, signing the book was a sign of those who were willing to tighten their belts in order to hasten the future.
Fifteen years later, in August 1977, my daughter was born and when she was also enrolled in OFICODA* I realized the future was slowly approaching. Thirty years later (September 2007) my first granddaughter came into the world. When I read her name in the ration book I remembered my friend Felipe, of how little reason his childish arguments had and of the certitude of his warnings.
*OFICODA: Office of Control of Food Distribution. It controls the entire operation of the system of the rationed market.