Day 13 - Sept. 30

Posted October 20, 2015

WRAL's Leyla Santiago looks out the window as she leaves Cuba for Miami, Florida.

It’s our last day. We leave in one hour.

Andy picked us up and the check-in process at the airport was a smooth one, for the most part.

After we checked in our luggage, got our passports stamped and made our way to security, I heard them say my full name over the walkie talkie.

“I need you to find passenger Leyla Santiago. Do you see her? Have you found her?”

My ears perked up and I saw agents trying to find this “Leyla Santiago” person. I identified myself to the closest agent, praying there wasn’t some sort of issue with my press visa. There wasn’t. Immigration agents simply wanted to check our camera equipment again. What I feared may have been a nightmare was actually a pleasant exchange. The agent joked that I had good hearing and wished me safe travels. She was very kind.

That exchange speaks to my overall takeaway from our nearly two weeks on the island. The people here have demonstrated an incredible resiliency over the last 50 years. Decades of mounting frustration, from what I have seen, have not taken away the kindness or warmth of the people. With little to give, they are very generous and have a strong desire to help each other and others. I have only felt this sense of “home” in one other place in the world, my home - Puerto Rico.

Here I am sitting in a little corner of a shop in the airport, reflecting on a well-known phrase among Cubans.

“Cuba y Puerto Rico: de un pajaro las dos alas.”

Literally translated— “Puerto Rico and Cuba: From one bird, two wings.”

The analogy indicates the two islands are not the same, but there are many similarities. We share some of the same history, traditions and culture. We are two different wings that come from the same bird.

I’ve heard it before. I’ve used it before. When I arrived in Cuba nearly two weeks ago, it was just an icebreaker to use in conversation with a Cuban. Thirteen days later, I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the phrase. I thought I understood before. I didn’t. I get it now.


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