by Emmanuel Joseph
After being rescued by his lawyer, David Comissiong, from starving himself to death in immigration detention in Barbados, to reaching a point where wedding bells could soon ring out for him, former drug convict, Cuba-born Raul Garcia is describing the end of his journey in this country, as a miracle.
Garcia returns to Cuba early Monday morning, the land he left at age 10, to migrate to North America.
It would appear that his regrettable experience of spending 15-and-a-half years of a 20 year jail sentence on cocaine charges at Dodds Prison, in St. Philip and his “frustrating” three-plus years afterwards in immigration detention, were not enough to stop Garcia from describing himself as a Bajan, who sees this country as a second home and the people as family.
His life seemed to have made a dramatic and welcomed turn when a High Court ordered his freedom from detention five months ago.
In an extensive interview with Barbados TODAY, Garcia revealed that he was able to return to his spiritual base and even find a Bajan “girlfriend” who will visit him from time to time, once he has settled into a “new Cuban life” on his return home.
He said too that marriage was on his mind.
“Up to now our relationship is working out very well. I feel very comfortable and happy with her and we are going to continue our relationship. She is not a Cuban. As a matter of fact, she is a Bajan. I am not going to mention her name, though. Eventually that will happen,” he beamed. ”Of course, she will come over and visit me when she can and let’s see what happens in the future,” Garcia added.
Asked if he would be looking forward to marriage “down the road,” he responded: “Like I said, you have to live life with a plan … you achieve those plans when the time comes. Up to now the relationship is going very comfortable and very good, let’s see what happens six months from now.”
“If everything goes well, I have no problem with marrying,” declared the 59-year-old father of three boys from a previous relationship.
Garcia also related how he has attended various churches since being released, including the Seventh Day Adventist and Nazarene.
Acknowledging the sense of peace and deep spiritual fulfillment derived from being there, the ex-drug convict, told this newspaper, he now sees why Barbadians go to church regularly.
For him, the question of leaving Barbados will be bittersweet.
”That is a two way answer,” he suggested. “For the years that I have been in Barbados, I have created a huge family here as well. Many people through the years, and also for the past year and a half or two, have become very close to me, very important in my life. We have dealt with a lot of trust, with a lot of caring and even a lot of love among us.”
“That is not easy to achieve,” Garcia noted, “it takes years and a lot of incidents to happen, a lot of adversities to come along your way; sympathy and everything that could describe closeness and love. It has happened.”
Garcia stated that besides that, the way the public of Barbados had received him into society, “it has become, not the group that I had socialise with, but a whole country that has opened their arms for me to come in.”
“So I would say that I am not only leaving a group that had become my family, I am leaving a country that I could say that they are like family to me,” he recognised.
When Garcia returns to Cuba, he will be met on arrival by his uncle.
“Actually I have my uncle with his children, that they are going to receive me in Cuba and a house to live. I have family to be with. He is the brother of my mother, the older brother. So I have a family which I will go home (to) with no problem.”
Garcia also spoke with a sense of anticipation and delight that it would now be much easier for his sons and mother to visit him in Cuba because of the shorter distance between that Spanish-speaking Caribbean island and North America where they currently reside.
His father passed away about a month after he was released from immigration detention and a fourth son, a drug addict, died from an overdose back in 2001.
“It would mean the world to me,” he explained, when he finally meets his mother again and feels her arms around him after many years of only being able to talk on the phone or see her on Skype – a social network system of visual communication.
He is also looking forward with gleam in his eyes to being with his sons.
“I have three young men. One is studying at university, another one is in computer graphics and the third one lives in Canada. He was in the army, but now he is not in the army any more. My father passed away the 30th of May, about 25 to 30 days after I came out.”
“But I still have my mother and this is one of the good things for me going back to Cuba, because she would be able to visit me in Cuba. Due to her illness, she would not be able to come and visit me here in Barbados because of the long flight … Barbados is about four hours flight; she would not be able to fly for so long,” Garcia told this paper.
“I could not reach my father even though I saw him on Skype a few days before he passed away. But having her in my arms, it would be the biggest thing I could ever have for the past 20 years,” he declared, with a slight note of emotion in his voice.
Reminiscing on the “heart warming” welcome he received by Barbadians when he was released, Garcia said he was surprised.
”I wasn’t expecting it,” he admitted, “on this broad scale that I found when I came out. It has surprised me in a way. But it has fortified my faith. It has given me comfort in the country, it has given me a feeling of belonging to the people of Barbados, and it has also fortified the feeling of them belonging to me, to the extreme that I will always say, my people of Barbados.”
Commenting on the state of this country’s judicial system, Garcia said he was happy the Constitution had “been finally served,” referring to the High Court ruling that his continued detention by immigration authorities was unconstitutional and he should be freed.
“But I feel that there are a lot of things in this process that could be improved. I feel that the mentality of the immigration as well as should open their minds a little more; should consider the person who is in this situation (like his) without departing from the security that is needed to keep the country under control,” submitted the former prisoner.
His message to persons involved in, or intent on, getting into drugs or other crimes is that such a path which ends in prison, amounts to a dark, dismal hole of regret.
In fact, Garcia likened prison – within the scheme of life – to the same level as death. [email protected]