It struck me that this yacht moored at the Cienfuegos marina is the same one that workers for the magazine Cuba International toured the bay on in 1975. That was a courtesy of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in the then province of Santa Clara*, in recognition of a special issue about the territory, prepared by a group of journalists and photographers, that was triumphantly distributed at the commemoration of the XXII anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks.
I could not forget that tour shared with my colleagues, now scattered throughout the world. I had told Yoani the story so many times — she wasn’t born yet — that she could repeat it in all its details: the gargantuan buffet, the open bar and, especially, the illusion that this privilege unquestionably put us momentarily above the rest of Cubans, something which we truly deserved.
It had to be the same yacht because my fantasy wanted it to be and because to board it together with my wife to relive those events in a new light was something I didn’t want to miss. So we went to an office with the suspicious name of “the operation” where we paid the fare and they gave us a receipt to give to the captain at the dock of the Jagua Hotel. A group of tourists (Canadians or French?) boarded the boat smiling, while we made our way to the best corner of the upper floor from where we could take good photos of the voyage. I remember that from there, 36 years ago now, the singer Pedro Luis Ferrar enlivened that mythical journey I made with my colleagues from the magazine.
Solicitous and gallant, the captain asked us our nationality. “I’m from Camaguey, she’s from Havana,” I said, with a touch of pride. The man maintained his smile and said something about the drinks being included in the voyage. A few minutes later he returned to say that he’d been obliged to inform headquarters that there were two Cubans on board, “and if gives me great pain to say this,” but it is absolutely forbidden and, in consequence, “we very much regret” that we would to leave the ship.
Yoani demonstrated the enormous superiority of not telling me “I told you so” and stood up, but not before spitting out to the amiable captain something that made him uncomfortable. I managed to offer up a little speech in French (my poor and mangled French) to the astonished tourists who suddenly felt themselves in the South Africa of apartheid. Once on the dock, I asked Ramiro Torres, the official from headquarters who came to enforce the order that we get off, if he knew that this had been Communist Party’s yacht in the former province of Santa Clara, but the man was very young at that time and knew nothing of an era in which another kind of segregation predominated, one in which this humble servant was a beneficiary.
In 1976 Santa Clara province was split up into three provinces: Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus.
7 November 2011