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realclearworld

Another piece of the best of Cuba laid to rest

Our deepest condolences go to Asombra who shares with us his thoughts on the passing of his dear mother:

Another Piece of the Best of Cuba Laid to Rest

My mother has died. I had known for a while that it was time for her to go, as she'd outlived her capacity to have more than a physiological existence, which is not the same as a life. Knowing that, of course, never prevents a sense of loss, of something missing, leaving a yawning emptiness like a black hole, and it doesn't stop the vise-like grip of sadness that feels, at times, like asphyxia--but it was time for her to rest.

Bear with me if you've heard all this before, or lived it, but it is of some help to express it. Among other things, I owe my mother my freedom and its benefits, for she was the driving force behind our leaving Cuba "before it was too late." My father was too deeply rooted in his native habitat to have left it purely on his own initiative, and indeed, he never fully recovered from being uprooted. My mother, however, was focused like a laser on saving her children from the horrors of communism. If she'd had to, she would have left without my father, who later related how she was obsessed and almost crazed with getting her kids out of danger.

She had never been and never would be political, and in a sense she was unworldly, but she never trusted Fidel, and she read between the lines better and quicker than most. As it became increasingly clear to her what the "revolution" was about and would entail, she was seized by a kind of lingering panic. She later recalled how she would dread every new Castro speech, fearing he would finally shut down all chance of escape, but she persisted and prevailed, though it took several years of trying before we were allowed to leave.

She never looked back. She never saw her beloved parents again, but even after it became possible to visit Cuba, she wouldn't go (although my father did, alone). She wouldn't dream of her children returning to that hellhole, and she never understood how anyone who'd gotten out could possibly let their kids go there (it was not a good idea to talk to her about the Elián González case). Oddly, or perhaps predictably, her visceral rejection of the "revolution" did not include nostalgia for pre-Castro Cuba, certainly nothing like my father's gnawing longing for the past. To her, that Cuba was dead, something that no longer existed and would never return. She showed little or no interest in "las cosas de antes," or the old things, which may have been her way to cope with the loss without being eroded by it, as my father was.

My parents only left Cuba for the sake of their children. My father never would have left otherwise, and my mother would not have pushed him for any other reason. They weren't looking for better material conditions for their kids, either--they were afraid for their minds and souls. My mother especially was convinced that, if the family stayed, the children would, in effect, be taken from their parents and corrupted, turned into what she would have considered alien beings, and the prospect terrified her.

I am impressed by the purity of my parents' sacrifice to this day, and it has shaped my life. I cannot relate, to put it very mildly, to people who dishonor or disrespect such parents, particularly people of Cuban origin. I also cannot tolerate the ignorance and insensitivity of the kind of non-Cubans who were all for sending Elián González back to hell, and that particular incident had a major impact on my consciousness and subsequent thinking. Behind it all was the image of my mother, sitting in fear through yet another interminable speech by you-know-who, desperate to get her children beyond his reach. I will not forget.

I will not impose upon you with more personal reminiscences, and I do not wish to be overly sentimental, for she was not. However, I do think she was an exceptional Cuban, and I have always been proud of that and drawn inspiration and strength from it. I cannot help but see her as a piece of the real and true Cuba, or at least the best Cuba, the one whose great promise so tragically miscarried. She was part of that promise, but she would not let her children sink with it, and I will always be grateful.

Gracias, mami. Descansa en paz.

11 comments to Another piece of the best of Cuba laid to rest

  • Carlos Eire

    My deepest condolences, Asombra. I know exactly what you mean and I thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us at this sad moment. You are correct: the sacrifices made by our parents were incalculable. And so are the benefits we reaped as a result of their courage.
    My heart goes out to you and yours.

  • Abrazos, amigo...it ain't easy. I was there very, very recently. Time obviously helps but never completely conquers the aching grief.

  • Dear Asombra, please accept my deepest condolences. Those best of Cuba, those I have the pleasure of
    knowing personally, and those like your mother, whom I admire even though I never had the honor of meeting her; they are the inspiration,along with those brave ones on the island, for my personal committment to the fight for a free Cuba. May God bless her and keep her always in peace.

  • My deepest condolences.

    May God be with you and yours, just as He is with your Mom.

  • Honey

    Ditto all that has been said so far.

    I wish the rest of our country understood the importance and relevance of the bravery of people like your mother.

  • OmarD

    Dittos to all the above. Your writing has reminded me so much of my departed parents who shared the save values and experiences. Thank you.

  • asombra

    Thank you all for the kind words. And Carlos, I thought of you as I wrote this post, given your personal history, including your response to the Elián debacle. It's really amazing how many people still don't get it, or at least act that way.

  • asombra

    My mother was not an imperious woman, but her highly atypical attitude towards the lost Cuba was similar to that of Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna towards the lost tsarist Russia, at least as portrayed in the 1956 film Anastasia (with Helen Hayes playing the old empress in exile). In a sense, my mother saw nostalgia as a kind of weakness, denial, or a waste of emotional energy which would change nothing. In that respect, she was stronger than my father--she refused to let the "revolution" screw her over twice, or keep screwing her indefinitely.

  • In a few days the fond memories of a wonderful life, along with the realization that it was clearly time to say good bye, might start ameliorating at least some of the grief...please don't get me wrong. I'm no priest, pastor or feel-good motivational speaker...but that's how it worked for me only a few months ago.

  • FreedomForCuba

    My heartfelt condolences, RIP in God's Glory...

  • joelima

    Very sorry for your loss, Asombra. Mi mas sentido pesame.