Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

As the train slowly departed the station, Fernando remained curious as to what had transpired while boarding the train. Glancing around the car, he recognized many of his fellow passengers, but some were unfamiliar to him. Many were speaking Spanish, others a language he recognized as not English, and strange sounding to him, though an occasional word sounded almost Spanish. His silent curiosity was interrupted by Ignacio speaking.

"Gaitero, ahora te explico lo que pasó allí, hombre." Ignacio was about to satisfy Fernando's curiosity as to the awkward scene with Belarmino.

"Estamos en un estado estadounidense sureño. Aquí hay leyes que mandan la separación de las razas, hasta en trenes y tranvías."

He explained to the new arrival that they are in a state which lies in the southern USA and specific laws prohibit the mixing of races. He added that this extended even to trains and streetcars. As a biracial man, Belarmino was prohibited from riding in the same train car as they. Those of black or mixed ancestry rode on crude benches in the baggage and freight car.

Fernando recalled having heard of mandated racial segregation in some parts of the USA but hadn't given it much thought. While Cuba was also a multi-racial society, segregation there was driven by societal norms, rather than by laws. Whereas in Cuba private societies are free to exclude whom they choose, public accommodations were equally available to all, regardless of race. Considering himself to be a fair and just person, he now found himself awkwardly trying to quantify, and "rank", varying degrees of injustice. He felt that this, in itself, was inherently immoral, as he felt that all forms of prejudice are wrong.

Ignacios's voice took Fernando from his internalized morality play back to the practical. The two young men had always shared a sense of curiosity in their surroundings, and Zapato relished this opportunity to introduce Gaitero to his new surroundings.

The train proceeded through the port area and Ignacio pointed out the docks from which troops and supplies had been sent to Cuba during the Spanish-American war two years prior. Fernando recalled well the brief but geopolitically very significant war that ended with Cuba transitioning from a province of Spain to a US protectorate. The young men confessed to each other that though they were Spaniards, they had supported the cause of Cuban independence, having unpleasant memories of the burdens that the Spanish monarchy, together with the Catholic church and the aristocracy, had placed upon the masses. It was a yoke from which they had chosen to depart.

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This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020