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Thursday, August 22, 2019
Friday, February 6, 2009

My father’s hands

By Enrique Milanés León.

My father’s handsSometimes, when I evoke the days gone by, my father returns from death. I always see him coming from the distance, growing up against the horizon. In these remittances, my brother Ivan and I run to reach him, as we just did some 30 years ago, and each one of us take one hand of our old man, then walk home together.

In my memories, my father is always wearing those cloths as he were to work. He, an absolute illiterate man that ignored the meaning of productivity, didn’t know, however, to live without working. Work was a part of his living, like the cigarette that he never quitted, in despite of our advises, and that speeded up his death.

Working was for him, like for many of his friends a sound vice that flooded his veins. And although he had the typical flaws of the fishermen – as the Pope has the usual ones of a Pope- my father had one of the greatest virtues that a man, on the face of the earth, can have, working hard to make an honest day's living.

In today’s Cuba, they speak much of productivity because we all are certain that this is the key factor to overcome hardships, millions of us go to bed and wake up with, determined to keep the kingdom of one flag: ours. However, patriotism is not always full optimization of the working day and a total display of ingenuity and creativeness capacity, as if we ignore that the survival of the country depends on that. Not everyone of us have thought that nowadays the “¡Patria o Muerte! ¡Venceremos!” (Homeland or Death! We Shall Triumph!) is much defined in the field of economic prosperity.

In spite of the abundant academic degrees, Cuba needs more citizens like my father was, people who take a degree in working, and feel about it a vital necessity, rather an answer to a call or a safety valve.

There is a certain whether-the-hen-or-the-egg-came-first kind of story between the salary and the productivity in the island nation. If the productivity doesn’t increase we are not gonna get any real increase in wages…if salaries are not on the rise then productivity doesn’t improve…

This is the classic labyrinth with an only one exit: work, but in its paths and tunnels many go astray. While people on both sides of the Florida strait speculate about spectacular changes, mutant currencies, incredible bounces or almost magical measures, the fact is that both Cuban President Raul Castro and the First Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura have insisted on the words productivity, efficiency, saving and work. It is clear that the people who become aware of the real meaning of these nouns will be able to give themselves the best of the miracles: a much better quality of living.

Reading, looking at, living these defining days, I keep recalling my father, an humble man absent in a country of workers and peasants, where builders scarce and the waste land abound. In my mind, my father gets off the boat and heads home.

Memory is an eloquent teacher, one day so many years ago, my brother Ivan and I saw a dark shadow coming towards us with the sun on his back and ran to welcome him, held his hands and merely took some steps. Immediately we let go of his hands after realizing that they weren’t those of my father, those lacked the callosity he had on his palms. (Translation: Gualveris Rosales Sánchez)