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Havana-Merida-Chicago (A Journey to Freedom)

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The book Havana – Mérida – Chicago is a self analysis of my life. It represents three milestones on my way to freedom. From the city where I was born and spent approximately fifty-two years of my life (with stays in Great Britain and Ukraine ), to the city where I actualized myself from a religious, human and scientific standpoints during three unforgettable years, and finally to the city where I could finally be free.

I feel the need to write this work because in this journey to freedom I experienced feelings, ordeals, and contradictory states of mind. I also had to make hard decisions related to the human beings I loved most. I want to share these experiences with a broader audience because many people can see themselves reflected in these circumstances and they could benefit from the ways I solved these issues.

In the book, the reader can find answers to questions such as: a)- how can anybody follow the process of believing in God, disbelieving in God and returning to God again? How does it feel to be used by the Lord to be useful to human beings? b)- how and why Castro continues in power after 46 years? c) – how did Castro manage to take the celebration of Christmas out of the Cuban culture? d) – how did Castro turn generally Catholic people into overwhelmingly atheist? e) – what problem faces an honest scholar who believed in the Revolution, and got deceived after some time? f) – how can an intelligent man have his brain washed by the communist propaganda and wake up by himself after a rude moral blow on his innocence? g) – how poignant is the process of losing one’s roots? h) – how important is the force of pure love, and how it can survive to politically strenuous circumstances in different countries? i)- how does it feel to leave everything behind at 55 years of age in the search for freedom? j) – what contradictory feelings one has to solve in the process of defection?

Along the seven chapters of the book, the reader can witness how my dreams to succeed as a scholar were built, how my belief in God was interrupted by the revolutionary process that irrupted into Cuba in 1959, and how my desire to study, to learn, to ascend in the scientific ladder made my eyes blind to the reality of a country being pushed down the drain in theological, economic, and social contexts.

All my unsolved questions were settled after I finished my second doctorate and returned to Cuba with the hope of helping my country to get out of the “special period” circumstances to get to the conclusions that under Castro’s regime it was impossible for Cuba to reach economic progress, and that I myself could do nothing to help my country of origin. The building of my dreams was substituted by the deep deception I went through, which made me reject Castro’s regime in its entirety.

The five stages of mourning a true loss were followed by me: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance took turns to leave me with only one option – to leave Cuba as soon as possible. The process of losing my roots had already started by breaking my link with the Cuban sugar industry, where I had done most of my research work during twenty five years.

At the moment in which my teaching and research activity was considerably blocked and almost detained in Cuba while my health was collapsing, the city of Mérida gave me a hand. I stayed there from September 1993 to April 1996. In Mérida I reached my maximum research capacity in completing projects with instructors and students, in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, in writing papers and publishing a book about methodology of research, as well as in organizing and participating in scientific seminars.

The religious, scientific and pedagogic realization in Merida was abruptly interrupted when I went to Cuba to visit my mother and kids. The Minister of Higher Education of Cuba gave the order not to return my passport and obliged me to stay in Cuba during seven long months. All my actualization was stopped and I was stagnating in Cuba feeling absolutely underused in a productive way and deprived of all my rights as a human being. The seven days which became seven months made me suffer tremendously since I was separated from my wife, who fortunately could stay in Mexico. However, these seven months helped me to pay attention to my mother as I had never done before, to strengthen my religious faith, and to break my roots with the Cuban higher education system – to which I was linked during thirty four years – and with Cuba.

After losing all my roots, I started to get ready to defect. The ordeal to leave Cuba was long and difficult to stand. Only my faith in the Lord and in my wife helped me bear with the journeys to the airport every Saturday morning and evening during seven months to send and to receive letters from my wife. When, after five months, the Cuban government finally let me go for two months and only two months, then I had to renew my Mexican visa which had already expired. Another two anguishing months traveling to the Mexican Embassy in Havana had to go in order for me to leave Cuba for good.

Two stressful months were still ahead of the Cuban couple looking for freedom. Ups and downs were to be lived, including the useless search for political asylum in Mexico, the moment of defection at the American consulate in Merida, the looking for a place to hide once the two-month permit granted by the Cuban government had expired, the pleasant surprise of receiving the American visa in an incredibly fast way, and the unexpected surprise at the moment of boarding the place that would bring us to Chicago.

The Lord chose Chicago as the final destination of my route to freedom. Although in this book I have only included my first five months in this city, they were enough for us to feel freer than ever before in our lives. In reality, this is a trip from the most contemporary example of a country ruthlessly ruled by a dictator who pretends to be a king – a forty-five year term actually represents a kingdom, rather than a presidency – denying his people the most elementary human rights, to a developing capitalist country with the predominance of one party during almost seventy years, and finally to the cradle of democracy in the Western hemisphere. In other words, this trip is a sequential battle for freedom.

The story is not common. The narration is full of coincidences which appear to be taken from imaginary settings in an incredibly timely sequence. All events mentioned in this book are totally real, although the names of the participants have been changed to preserve confidentiality. As I explain in detail in the book, I did the journey Havana – Mérida – Chicago, but the Lord was the author of the whole plan.

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