Cooling relations between Spain and Cuba have highlighted the plight of a small colony of Cubans living in Madrid.
While many members of Spain’s Cuban community say they’re happily integrated into Spanish life, others yearn to return to their home country.
Memories of their tropical roots are nurtured by exiled Cubans thousands of miles from home.
While most of those who fled from Cuba after the revolution of 1959 stayed in the Caribbean, some went further afield, returning to Spain, the country of their ancestors.
Unlike the big Cuban communities of Miami and Puerto Rico, Cubans in Madrid have to work hard to preserve their identity.
But some, like guitarist Flores Chaviano, say they have integrated into Spanish life and have no intention of returning to their homeland.
Chaviano has made a career for himself playing Cuban music and has been rewarded with the musical directorship of the conservatory in the city of Segovia.
“I’ve been able to realise myself as an artist and as a person, which is most important. In this sense I feel completely satisfied with my decision. My experience has been very positive, my family and I have integrated ourselves completely into life in Spain, and
there are no great differences between the Cuban and Spanish ways of life as they have common roots.”
SUPER CAPTION: Flores Chaviano, Cuban musician
But success in their adopted culture doesn’t necessarily alleviate the pain of their exile.
Tony Evora has won renown in Spain with paintings depicting Cuban themes.
But he says he has never abandoned his dreams of returning to the land of his childhood.
“We are devastated souls, if that’s what you mean. Who wants to be in exile, for goodness sake, so far away from our island? For people who live in countries like Miami of Puerto Rico or Venezuela, they have the climate and an environment full of Cubans,
which makes them feel much more at home, but for people who live in England, in France, in Spain, in Italy, it’s much harder.”
SUPER CAPTION: Tony Evora, Cuban painter
Many of the five-thousand Cuban families living in Spain have Spanish ancestry, so they had no difficulty getting used to the food or language.
But they still feel the need to organise regular get-togethers to exchange memories and reminiscences of their homeland.
“Well, the problem is that on the one side exile unites people in the pain they feel in separation, then again there are great differences in that they have to make a living separately, which isn’t simple. The legend that we are all paid by the CIA is an
impossibility, they don’t have the money for that. the value of this meeting, apart from the musical worth, is that we see each other, talk to each other and remind each other of
ourselves. That helps Cuba and helps the Cubans.”
SUPER CAPTION: Carlos Cabrera, publisher of Encuentro, Cuban cultural magazine
Less vociferous in their condemnation of Cuba’s communist regime than the communities of the Florida seaboard, Spain’s Cuban colony has long served as an unofficial bridge between Cuba and Europe.
The decision of Spain’s new centre-right government to suspend aid to Cuba will make it more difficult for them to continue fulfilling this role.
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