Cuba is precisely the kind of man I am likely to fall madly in love with: the fallen hero, the crusader who unintentionally became the cause. Cuba is strong-willed, courageous, gracious, optimistic, and a visionary, yet he is vulnerable, broken, and out of alignment with himself. I see the nation in the masculine because the locals refer to their homeland as the “Fatherland” but the place to me is also like a rugged action-hero, militaristic, and brimming with machismo. Let me share how it felt to meet him, and how I got to know some of his expanse by both land and water, over a fortnight. I would like to qualify that I am speaking of the country in it’s entirety, and as we come to know a place, we can see that
a place is more than the political parties and influential individuals who have stood at its helm for a few mortal years. In the scheme of time, eternal, the man I speak of, Cuba, outlives those who have tried to leave their imprint on him.
Cuba has the makings of a wealthy, eclectic, inclusive, compassionate leader, lover, and legend but he was too often conquered, and that has chipped away at his soul. In an effort to rid himself of his captors, he placed faith on those born of him, but corruption led them astray. Those who claimed to understand him and said they could help him did so on terms that served their own agendas. Those he trusted managed to brazenly betray him, and when he was finally cared for, the ones who wanted the best for him did not know how to give him the space to find himself. He was loved but the love turned possessive and inhibiting instead of liberating and enabling. Consequently, he has lost sight of himself. He is now a shadow of his former self. He does not perceive his own bold, irreplaceable, distinctive beauty. To me, he is the love I have been looking for, and yes he is a place, yet in him I see both a marginalized person and a sense of meaningful purpose.
Cuba is the kind of man whose relationship status on Facebook would read, “It’s complicated.” He has many paradoxical traits about him, and the more you immerse yourself in his presence the more you discern he is at odds with himself. His beliefs almost run counter to what sustains him, he is often espousing things that are not congruous with what he is sought out for. He seems at first appearance a man without integrity, but can he be blamed for compromises that were thrust upon him every step of the way by scheming former partners who were master puppeteers, from Spain and Britain to the US and Russia. Every one he has ever been courted by is to blame for his current condition. Now all, who couldn’t milk him for all his worth have left him to his own devices without any reparations for all the damage they have done unto him.
Perhaps it’s the savior complex in me or perhaps it’s that as a woman I cannot escape my maternal instinct to nurture, but my heart goes out to him, and if I could fashion crutches that would help him stand proud and tall as his own man, I would have made him a pair yesterday. I want to fix all that is fragmented in him, because I see his splendor, his soul. It is tortuous though, to engage with him as a whole, politically, ideologically, economically, and in the end he is like every other cause I have ever fallen in love with and care unconditionally about.
He is intentionally left deprived by everyone around, the tragic crash that attracts bystanders who each have an opinion about how he could have avoided the collision. His story is that of many other colonies and disenfranchised countries, because for every rich man, there needs to be a beggar that contrasts the having of fortunes with the utter lack thereof. Cuba’s response to this comes with an air of spiritual observance, for he thinks a man poor if all he has is money.
His people, his cars, his cats, his superfluous colonial architecture, his wild coral gardens, his dilapidated rural homes, his markets selling produce that his locals cannot afford, his omnipresent government, his curated yet carefree comport, his joy in the face of adversity, his unassailable sorrow. To describe him on the basis of just those facets would neither encapsulate his inner narrative nor do him justice. He bears deep scars from external and internal oppression, from having lost what was his birthright, freedom, from as far back as he can now remember to his prior relationships. He is filled with strife and that has made him resilient. He is not able to nourish all aspects of his own being, and that keeps him awake at night. His body is isolated from the very legs he stands on, the multitude of civilians who have learned to survive scarcity like a chronic disease. He is disabled but he refuses to see himself as such, and for that confidence, which stems not from denial but determination, I cannot help but respect him. I think him honorable and honest despite all the dishonest hustling his impecunious predicament enables in his people.
He like every other individual just wants to be free, happy, loved, and fostered. He yearns to be cherished and celebrated by those he has let in, but he has faced a life of being indentured, indebted, injured and insulted. So if you decide to spend time with him, take a moment to listen, to truly see him. Be tender, be patient, hold his hand and give him the chance to tell you his story, for it isn’t all about you and what you can get from him or how you feel when you are in his company, he has to be accounted for as well. Have a cigar with him, but know what it costs the farmers who grow, cure and roll them. Drink with him but know that the mint in your mojitos isn’t available to his own people. Swim in his waters and discover his reefs but know you have taken no responsibility to preserve them. Don’t meet him with the intention to take. Enough have taken from him.
The time has come for us to look beyond our own agenda and nurture him, sustainably, and for his own sake. He needs to be loved for him but for that he first needs to be empowered; he needs now more than ever, our support to self-actualize.
He is not hollow, he is not an escape or entertainment, and he is not a romantic glimpse into the past, he is very much present, he is trying his utmost given the hand he has been dealt and for all of the above, he is a man of notable grit and extraordinary character. One I deem worth standing by, one that I got to love and explore in person but now recall at random moments of each day, with a deep fondness. I am a better woman, a better person, for knowing him.
The questions I am haunted by as I board my Flight to New York are: Who is he now?
Does he know himself? Does he suffer from an identity crisis? Does he love himself wounds, warts and all? The emotion I am assailed by, as the plane pulls me away from him, is love, pure and simple. I want to hold him close and assure him of better times to come, offer what comfort I can to ease his uncertainty and help him bear his hurt. I want to let him know that neither support nor love is conditional, albeit conditional love and support is all he has ever known.
Will a man who has never experienced unconditional love ever possess the vocabulary to recognize such a connection? Some come to define love in restrained terms, and never know anything more capacious than the box within which they have endured the sentiment. I ache over the possibility that he might be predisposed to a pattern of embracing loss and lack as the return on investment from love. Will he ever know his true worth and stand as an equal to a woman who could love him for precisely who he is, or will he only be drawn to the kind of woman he has been hurt by before? I want to help him heal for his own sake, so he can evolve beyond potential and be a self-made, self-realized man, but maybe he needs the space to even perceive a path that is in such stark contrast to what he has unfailingly faced. I hope he is wooed by a nation, a Motherland, that truly acknowledges and releases him from his past and perceives his true expanse in the present.