Rafael Hernández, editor of the Cuban magazine Temas, recently stated on television that, according to his experience, those young people who have had the opportunity to travel to other countries usually return home more mature and better able to evaluate the realities we live in this country.
It is logical that this be so, since contact between peoples is a basic ingredient of universal culture and has had a particular importance in the case of Cuba, where people from all over the world have always come together and the Cuban footprint appears in the most unsuspected places of modern history. It is a country that has never been able to exist with its back to the world and Cubans have never wanted that either.
Isolationism has never been part of the Cuban logic and localist visions are more related to ignorance than to patriotism — a stop-gap for national struggles when they have been present.
For the most part, the great leaders of independence were men of the world, capable of bringing a universal vision to the nation’s project and, despite the intensity of these struggles, Cubans have never been xenophobic.
The impact of the Cuban Revolution is explained by its international dimension. Not even when the American siege was most stifling did it mean closing the borders and disconnecting from the rest of the world. Rather, it could be said that relations with other peoples were never broader and more diverse than throughout the revolutionary process.
Individuals who travel abroad, in whatever way or for whatever reason(s), are also a fruit of the revolutionary process and, like those who remain in the country, reflect the existence of a new political subject, a consequence of the evolution of what happens in Cuba.
Shrouded in its own transformations, within a very difficult economic situation and an international scenario where turmoil and instability prevail, the Cuban citizen is obliged to ask himself other questions and seeks answers by any possible means.
When we talk about a “change of mentality,” we are talking about a different political culture and this includes banishing any prejudice against the contact with the outside world, otherwise unnatural, in a process that prides itself on its internationalism and has plenty of reasons for it.
It also makes no sense in a country whose main income is linked to the outside world — whether they be through tourism or international professional services — and has 10% of its population living abroad. Remittances and indirect investments constitute a significant contribution to the national economy.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans travel more or less regularly to other countries. The current migration policy facilitates this process and the logic of circularity, let alone the possibility of people coming and going, has imposed its dynamics in migratory flows, transforming in many ways Cuban society. Also, and even with the existing limitations, Cubans are people connected to social networks.
As is always the case, external influences can be bad or good, but the ability to interact with the world can not be seen as a misfortune because its opposite would be stultification.
Either way, it is an inescapable reality for today’s Cuban society — and clues from our own history can serve as our guide. We have that metabolic capacity to know how to take advantage of what comes from other parts and turn it into national heritage, enriched by our culture.
The Cuban people are as prepared as anyone to live in this world. It is worth our while to take advantage of it. “To be cultured is the only way to be free,” said the most universal of us all.