I want … Oh, it is very easy to understand, I want to be a human being
My name is René Rouco Machin, born on July 30, 1969. My parents left Cuba, they live over there in Arizona. I have children, I have a wife, I live here at number 88A Star Street, between Yumurí and Pinar del Rio, Parraga, Havana, Cuba. Come, I invite you, I would like to introduce my family.
On September 8, 1994, just around noon, I left on a raft from the East of Havana, from Guanabo beach, and after three days of poor navigation, when we thought we would die, a helicopter picked us up on the high seas and took us to a giant ship that looked like a city. It took us to Guantanamo Naval Base where we spent a few months. There I passed the lie detector test. Some people say false names and things, not me, I lay down and they attached some cables to me; but nothing more, I didn’t lie. They never tortured us or beat us, but what they did give us was some loaves of bread that were so enormous that I couldn’t eat the whole of them and I tried to hide them because of the habit of hoarding and because I was so sorry to throw away food so rich. But the Americans, they didn’t like that, they said that the food could spoil. You can clearly see they don’t understand the hunger my family suffered in Cuba.
At the end of that year, they sent me to Panama in a Boeing 227. That I remember well, it was the first time I had been in a plane, which was impressive. On arriving in Panama, they took us to the military base of Chiriqui, very near the famous Canal, where they assigned us to different apartments. I ended up in number 4 which was sponsored by Celia Cruz and Willy Chirino who helped us with clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc.. From that time, I hold a very beautiful picture and memory. Breakfast was given to us by a short Cuban who said he owned the store “The Machetazo” (“The Great Machete”). Awesome name, pal, and tremendous solidarity. And, if you let me, today I would like to thank everyone who helped us without a second thought, especially the daughter of Willy Chirino and Celia Cruz, whom I have always in my heart.
After a year and a day of being on that base in Panama, they gave us American residency for being under U.S. patronage. Days later, they told us that those who would voluntarily return to Havana would have no problems, the government would not retaliate against us, and that, when we went to the American Embassy in Havana, they would give us political asylum and we could leave Cuba without any problems.
My son was then a year old, I missed him, I was 23. So I did not think about it and, of over 32 thousand Cubans on U.S. bases who had left on a raft, I was one of the 756 who voluntarily returned. But arriving at Jose Marti airport, they took us directly to Combinado prison. I was released after 20 days, yes; but from that day I have not been left alone. I want to leave this country so that no one reports me to a police station, that they don’t hit me or imprison me for the sole reason of being black, or ugly. I want to live and smile like everyone else, to work, to make love to my wife without having to be ashamed of not having a penny, I want to take my family to eat at a restaurant, I want to say freely what I think without fear of being wrong or of not being right. I want … Oh, it is easy to understand, I want to be a human being.
Translated by: CIMF