Interviewing a rootless Cuban: Henrique García Pileta

Henrique and me

Henrique García Pileta looks like Spaniard, he has European ascendance but he was born in Santa Clara, situated in Cuba. He is tall, green-eyed and his skin is pretty white, the only evidence of his precedence is his accent and the stories which he tells. Nowadays, he lives in Madrid, but he was in Cuba during the mandate of Fidel Castro.
We met at a café in order to talk a little about his past, how his life is now and make an interview. I was interested in knowing him more in deep. It is not possible to express here how deeply touched he feels when his memories come to his mind.

Me: Good afternoon Henrique, could you introduce yourself in a few words?
Henrique: Good afternoon Isa, I’m Henrique from Cuba. I’m twenty-three years old and I live here in Spain since I was eighteen years old. My parents were born in La Habana as me, but my grandparents are from Venezuela and Spain.
M: Why did your grandparents leave their countries?
H: Well, it’s not easy to explain. On the one hand, my Spanish grandparents are from Galicia, and they left their city when the Spanish Civil War started in 1936. They had a hard life because they came to Cuba and they started here from nothing. On the other hand, my Venezuelan grandparents are still in Venezuela. They have a big fortune so they have well-off lives.
M: How did you come to Spain?
H: hmm… my parents migrated to Argentina in order to escape from the regime in Cuba when I was thirteen. I couldn’t follow them due to my age. As you may know, if you are under-eighteen, you can’t easily go away from Cuba. Later, my parents moved again from Buenos Aires to Madrid because of the “Corralito”. When I reached the legal age, I came here to meet them.
M: How was your life in Cuba living without your parents?
H: I was living with my Spanish grandparents, but this didn’t make me feel better, even though I love them as much as they were my own parents. I passed my whole teenage alone and missing them. It was hard to stand but that made me grow up.
M: I see that you are getting thrilled, was everything that bad?
H: Not so bad, when you lose someone as important as your parents, you learn how to balance that missing. My friends were a great support for me those years.
M: What’s your opinion about Fidel Castro’s regime that time? Do you think that is something different now with Raul Castro?
H: I don’t feel too interested in politics, but the only thing that annoys me, is that my parents had to leave the island because of the repression there, and consequently, I had to live with my grandparents for those years. From my point of view, a regime that puts borders to your freedom is a dictatorship. I know that some of the Cuban population supports their political party because they consider him the voice of the people. Nowadays, I am not too informed about politics there in Cuba, I felt completely rootless about Cuba. The grandparents that I had there passed away and all my relatives live in Venezuela or Spain.
M: What are the rights that you felt violated by the regime?
H: A clear example is the freedom of residence, I couldn’t choose my home. There is either press freedom or freedom of expression. This make that the Cuban people is apart from the politics. They have of course their own ideologies but under a suppressor regime like this, is not possible to express it.
M: How do you live now?
H: Now I live with my parents in Madrid. I study languages and I feel completely integrated in this multicultural society. Sometimes I feel like in Cuba due to the big Caribbean population here.
M: Your parents left Argentina because of the “Corralito”, as you know there is a growing fear of living a similar situation in Spain. What did your parents tell you about their experience in Argentina?
H: Well, you know, the “Corralito” was a financial crisis where the bank couldn’t stand their debts. Because of that, people couldn’t take their money out of banks. My parents told me that panic took possession of the people in the streets. There were many demonstrations, strikes and riots. The media played its role and alarmed the population even more. My parents took their savings when they couldn’t but by that time, they had already decided to come back to my father’s land, Spain.
M: Do you include in your plans for the future to come back to Cuba?
H: Although sometimes, I miss Cuba, the people there, the atmosphere, the Caribbean sea and all those things, as I told you, I felt a little bit rootless and I can’t forget that was in Cuba where I lived the hardest days of my life without my parents.
M: I hope you reach your goals and be happy forever. Take advantage of your experiences. Thank you very much for your time, it has been a pleasure.
H: The same to you, Thank you very much.


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