Lourdes is a Chemical Engineer and hopes that, when the time arrives, she will be able to help in the reconstruction of her country. She confesses that the years, and the political maturity that have come with exile have enabled her to erase the resentment and hate that formerly felt toward her country. She now views "with other eyes" that Cuba which was wrested from her and better appreciates the spiritual wealth of the people of Cuba.
Several months ago I was reviewing the information that one can find about Cuba on the Internet and I found something that, to this day, still bewilders me: and that is that Cárdenas, the city of my birth, has a site on the Web written by someone who, in spite of the years that he has been away from our BANNER CITY, is proud to be a Cardenense and wishes to render tribute to the beautiful Pearl of the North, which over the past thirty nine years has been turned into a small and silenced village.
Among the things that one can find here is a detailed and illustrated history of a Cárdenas that to any Cardenense of my generation and other generations born under the "Castroist indoctrination" was totally unknown, despite having lived during a time in which the government has bragged about having contributed to the education of the new generations. The most interesting thing is that they have taught us during all of our lives to hate those who have left Cuba because of their way of thinking and manifesting themselves against the current government, but today, it is them we must turn to when we search for genuine knowledge of our history, and I mean all of our history, from the whys of a street name, to the accomplishments of our compatriots in all walks of daily life.
My memories of Cárdenas, unfortunately, don't relate very well to those of the author of this homepage, but he had the ability to choose what history to learn, not me, the history I learned was imposed upon me every day in school, that same school where, day by day, they taught me (voluntarily or involuntarily) to feel ashamed of having been born in that same city of which other generations are increasingly more proud.
They never even taught us how our city was named. I came to know a Cárdenas of desolate parks, with barely any benches, I saw a Cárdenas with broken and unrepaired sidewalks, of streets that were unusable for hours when flooded by the rains. I lived in a Cárdenas of mosquitos and garbage piles on any corner, of sidewalks broken intentionally by neighbors in their desperate seach for drinking water, of an acqueduct gone without maintennance for so many years, a Cárdenas totally lacking any places of recreation for the young, like our parents had at clubs like the Casino Español, which is totally destroyed today, converted into ruins of Cárdenas's history. I grew up in a Cardenas with a Columbus park inundated with barefoot children hunting down the first tourist they could beg for a few cents in foreign currency or simply some foreign object they could not get in their own country.
It's hard for me to acknowledge my misery, but I believe it helps me cleanse my soul of rancor and hatred, and now that I find myself in exile, to feel a sense of pride in my Cárdenas, that same one that I've been describing to you, which has not improved in the least during these years of separation; on the contrary, each day it gets worse and sinks deeper into the mud.
I remember how as a child I would hear stories about how Cardenas had been in the old days, of a Playa Larga without the pollution, of a thriving port, of an Arechabala of which all its workers were proud, of clean straight streets, of a social life, etc. Today it's all the contrary, as if a spell (like in the fairy tales) had befallen her and had sunk her into the most terrible suffering, the most terrible poverty and misery. Everything appears new to me, and sometimes incredible, when I visit this website, almost as if the Cárdenas I've described to you did't really exist, or viceversa; what is clear is that the one that the other displaced Cardenense so proudly and beautifuly displays in this website did not exist for me.
It's incredible how an idea, a system, or maybe a single man, has sunk a city, a nation and entire population into the condition currently being suffered by a people that had always been characterized by infinite joy, incomparable humor in the face of life and a desire to move ahead at all times.
That Ernesto, is my Cárdenas, the one that was wrested from you when you had to leave her many years ago; the one you tell me about is the one that was wrested from me little by little without realizing it; the one that you left behind when it was still flowering, the one that first saw our flag hoisted, the one that inaugurated the railroad, the one that one day decided to go out in the streets to protest against the current tyrant who has denied them their pride in being Cardenenses, in being "crabbers"!!!!
Lourdes Rodriguez Roche
Translation by E.J. de la Fé