A Much Needed Repost

I thought I’d repost an entry from June of last year because I think there’s a few folks commenting here that should read it.

YO NO VOY!

When my parents left Cuba in the late sixties, they were resigned to the fact that they would probably never set foot on the island ever again. They would never see their home again, or their town. They would never again stroll the parks where they courted in their youth. They prayed that they wouldn’t be separated from their families for ever, yet knew that chances were they would never see some of them again. Their loved one’s voices had to be locked in memory because exiling would take them a world away.

For years after they arrived in the US they knew little, if anything, about the lives of the families left behind. Phone calls were non-existent, letters sent either never arrived or were censored by Castro government officials. It was the sad reality of the Cuban diaspora.

Back then Castro had the economic support of the Soviets. His regime didn’t need US dollars to keep its economy going. So once you exiled, once you left Cuba, that was it. You were no longer Cuban. You were a Gusano. A traitor to la Revolucion. Once you left, you were gone, and Fidel Castro did not allow you back, under any circumstances.

We were real, honest to goodness political refugees. Exiles.

Today’s Cuban “exile” really isn’t an exile. Exile means banishment, and today’s Cubans that have come to the States are not banished from Cuba. On the contrary, they are welcome to visit the island. Encouraged even. It’s not just that their families need them, the government can’t survive without them. That’s why Castro wants them to come back, again and again and again.

There has been quite a lot of commentary and news recently regarding the Bush administration’s tightening of restrictions against the island. Critics say Bush is pandering to the Cuban-American vote in Florida. Other critics say the restrictions are dividing the Cuban community and families. Either of these critiques may be true. To which I submit a hardy SO WHAT?

Every four years, every presidential candidate comes to South Florida with a mouthful of promises and Viva Cuba Libres! Every single president since Kennedy has courted the Cuban-American vote. It’s nothing new. They come down, tell us they are going to fight to take down Castro, then when elected shuffle some papers around and make little adjustments to their Cuban foreign policy. It’s automatic. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

I do however, take exception to certain Cuban-Americans or Cuban “exiles” criticizing the new restrictions. Statements like: “Bush’s priority should first of all be to not keep Cuban families apart” are ridiculous to me. As if now it’s Bush’s fault that they left the island, sought political asylum, and can’t see their families agian. Guess what? That’s what being a political exile is. That is the hard reality of it.

If you could not have lived without your family you should not have left in the first place.

Every Cuban that exiled to the US up until the ’80’s knew this and accepted it. Freedom isn’t free. You need to earn it. When you left Cuba the only hope of ever seeing the island again was when Castro’s regime was gone. History. The US government didn’t make you leave Cuba, the US government didnt make you leave your family behind. There’s only two people responsible for that, you and Fidel Castro. Castro made the decision to screw your life up, you made the decision not to accept it so you left. It’s that simple.

This new generation of Cuban refugees are a product of Castro’s revolutionary ideology. Most are completely apolitical. They could care less who is Governor, Senator or President. Unless, of course, the Governor or Senator or President impedes their ability to forward dollars to their family in Cuba or to visit their family in Cuba. Then, all hell breaks loose.

And I feel for these people. I know what it’s like to leave family behind. I know what it’s like to have aunts and uncles die before ever even meeting them as an adult. I am a Cuban exile. I came here not to make money but to be a free human being. My family left Cuba when I was four years old and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t imagine what my life would have been had my family been able to stay.

My aunt, one of the first women to carry me as a baby died before I could ever meet her. She was my father’s sister. She died in the late seventies. My father lived with the fact that for the last ten years or so of her life, he was not there. He was not able to be a part of her life. I remember the day she died even though I was a child because I had never seen my father cry. I had never seen his spirit broken. I had never seen him on his knees.

Yet however painful it was, he knew he had done the right thing. He knew that in order to save his family he would have to sacrifice.

Sacrifice.

That is the price of freedom.

18 thoughts on “A Much Needed Repost”

  1. I am so glad you guys get it. I have traveled to Europe and argued with idiots wearing che shirts like it is some fashion statement. Last summer I was in Jamaica shopping, next to the cruise ship terminal and I walked out of the shop because they were selling the che garbage.

  2. While I respect everyones opinion on this i must say it is a touchy subject for most Cubans. You mention aunts,uncles, the real question is if you have your mother or father in Cuba who are old and need you. You send them money and if they get sick why would you not go and see them. I think that if my mother was dieing in Cuba, not only to fidel but to the devil himself (no difference)I would give money and what ever I had to do to see her and be able to be by her side when god takes her. i know their are a lot of people who abuse travel to Cuba and those are the ones that should be punished and deprived of returning to Cuba. and the new restrictions will do that. But the ones who go see their aging parents in hopes to see them alive one last time has to be justified. Will my sick mother last three years for me to be able to travel and see her?? I think fidel has taken enough away from the Cuban family why should we stop a son from seeing his sick mother.

  3. Cuban-Americans and other Americans,

    who want to go to Cuba,

    go to Cuba illega;y through

    third countries. Not a problem

    for many thousands each year.

    The only persons who seem to be

    prosecuted for going to Cuba seem

    to be a few religious/humanitarian types

    and bicycle tourists who thought

    what they were doing was legal.

  4. EXCELENT,
    living in sarasota , lots of my acquaintances here, always ask me if i have ever revisited Cuba. They tell me how wonderful their visit was(this is when i swallow a gulp of hatred and almost vomit). I say no, i would never set foot in Cuba as long as the bastard fidel is still alive. then sometimes I explain my “no coexistance” w/ Cuba philosophy. I always get that look of in one ear and out the other. I don’t bother explaning anymore it hurts too much. Just remeber my fellow “guzanos” , suffering is caused by ignorance” Why would i even visit a place that took my fathers life in 1959. The bastard fidel gave my father a mock trial , sentences him to the “paredon” along w/ everyone else chanting . not only was he murdered but tortured! before they finally shot him they took him out to the “paredon” and shoot him with blanks on three occassions .
    thanks to BABALUBLOG for letting me vent

  5. My paternal grandmother died in Cuba. I never saw her again after my parents left in 1960. My uncle is still there. That is fidel’s legacy: the destruction, not only of Cuba itself, but of the Cuban family as the societal glue that held the country together. Hell is too good for that motherless bastard.

    I echo Val: Yo no voy.

  6. Miguel,

    I understand your point and respect it. This is simply my opinion. With respect to visiting ailing family members, there are provisions for just that and other humanitarian situations. However, these provisions are limited to direct family members.

    I think I will repost another entry to clarify exactly what my posistion on this is.

  7. You guys really REALLY need to get over yourselves!

    If you don’t ever want to go back, that’s your problem. But why do Yumas have to be legally barred?

    I’m a capitalist. I believe in the UNIMPEDED flow of goods and capital. I buy stuff at Walmart. I don’t care that they’re anti-union! I want the discounts. I drive a gas-guzzling SUV. I don’t care if some of the money goes back to the Saudis to support terrorism or anti-american causes! I want to drive a big ass car where I live.

    Why o why can’t I legally go to Havana and walk down the malec?n? And why does it have to be such a pain in the ass to smoke a good Cuban stogie?

    Like I said, time to stop wallowing in the past and move on.

  8. Torpedo,

    Im a capitalist too. I just refuse to do business with a middle man.

    Goods are not certainly, as you say, “UNIMPEDED” in Cuba, are they?

  9. It’s not for me to decide how Cuba is run. I am arguing strictly from a potential U.S. tourist’s or businessperson’s point of view.

    I can’t stop all the evils of the world and I don’t want to or intend to. But I do know as a businessperson and an academic and a REPUBLICAN that whenever the federal govt. interferes with American business “for a good cause” it ALWAYS generates more ill than good!!

    So yes, I feel sorry for the people over there. I’ve seen for myself what they’re going through. But the U.S. can’t and shouldn’t get involved in every country’s problems. Notice that NOTHING continues to be done about the GENOCIDE that’s going on in Darfur and that is certainly a level far worse than what people are talking about here. I suppose the Middle East is more than enough for dubya to handle.

  10. The phrase that sums up Torpedo is such: “We will hang the last capitalist with the rope he sells us.” V.I. Lenin.

  11. As a Canadian I don’t get the travel ban myself. It’s true that going to Cuba does prop up one of the world’s less pleasant regimes. But if Cuba is flooded with American tourists that can’t be bad for Cubans-more openness, is bound to cause less Communism, and less Communism means a better life for ordinary Cubans. Especially since free health care or no, the Cuban model is only slightly more attractive then North Korea. (Personally if I was a socialist I’d rave about Sweden and just ignore how open to evil capitalist trade and free enterprise the place is).

  12. Mark,

    I’ve myself battled with the idea of whether an influx of American tourists would indeed cause “less Communism” in Cuba. I’d like to think that it would. Realistically speaking, however, if the rest of the world’s tourism (including from Canada) and tourist-generated reveune haven’t lessened Fidel’s stranglehold on the island, then there’s no reason to believe that an army of Americans with dollars and bad sunburns will do it either. Unless we Americans have some kind of secret anti-Communist potion that we can spread in Cuba! 😉

    I’m not one to tell other Americans what they can and can’t do, but I can’t help but feel that opening up travel to Cuba would not help the people one bit, and only benefits the regime.

    The change has to come from the inside, that means getting rid of Fidel and his regime, before any real changes can take place. It’s the only logical solution, IMHO.

  13. The phrase that sums up Torpedo is such: “We will hang the last capitalist with the rope he sells us.” V.I. Lenin.

    Anna, with all due respect, your naivet? is almost too much to bear. After the massacre at Tiananmen, the U.S. enacted an arms embargo but not a complete economic embargo. Why? Because that would have been a stupid thing to do! And to this day, Chinese dissidents are JUST as brutally repressed as Cuban dissidents. But the U.S. should NOT cut the cord with China, that would really be insane!

    Try to understand, your people are NOT the only ones in the world that are suffering. Why should the Cuban problem get more attention and taxpayer dollars from the U.S. than other countries with problems just as urgent or worse??

    Yes, it’s unfortunate that we have to get our hands dirty and deal with devils but that is the nature of the world we live in. Be a realist! If it wasn’t for the economic ties that the U.S. has with such dubious societies as Saudi Arabia and China, the world would probably be even MORE unstable and violent than it is today.

  14. Canada is much, much, much smaller then the United States, and substantially farther away. The U.S is also wealthier then Canada. The effects of U.S trade would thus be of an order of magnitude more then Canadian trade, and day trippers could go to Havana from Miami. Not only would that (one would hope) undermine the Castro regime (though you’d think the guy would drop dead) it would also make people appreciate private health care.

    Also from a broader perspective (perhaps its the pinko Canadian talking) but the U.S traded and invested in several brutal Latin American dictatorships. They are currently all democracies, and some of them (though none are doing as well as they could) are developing quite nicely. There’s no reason why we can’t think in the long term. If it worked in Chile it can work in Cuba.

  15. Why I support this embargo.

    The problem with embargoes, and I personally believe that there is a problem with embargoes, is that by themselves embargoes do not do enough. In Cuba’s case, France, Spain, and Canada have laughed their way into millions of dollars – by giving millions of dollars – to Castro. Result? Castro has outlawed direct personal contact between Cuban nationals and tourists. So, who are the French, Spaniards, and Canadians helping? Themselves and Castro.

    More recently we have the example that even with the UN embargo in place Irak made more money in the sale of petroleum than without the embargo. Yet, “the man” pocketed even more money – and killed more people with his WMD, which I am certain that he had.

    Embargoes do not do enough. Strong diplomatic positions must be taken, just as we did with Irak.

    I don’t believe that there is such a thing as direct support of the people. If we want to have “direct support of the people” we either have to figure out a way to clandestinely drop supplies, or forget about it altogether.

    The direct support of the people generally has to go through government ports, docks, and other processing facilities. This cannot be accomplished unless there is an accord with the existing regime. To obtain an accord with the existing regime, “the man” or “the party” has to be appeased or encouraged to work with those who want to provide direct support of the people. Thus, they get their millions and millions, while the people get meager crumbs.

    In the case of Cuba nothing magnifies this ineffective paradigm more than the fact that protestant churches buy their way into Cuba by promising to provide powdered milk for Cubans. Powdered milk in a country with an agricultural economy? Yes. So one asks, where is the milk produced in Cuba going? To support the regime’s adventures overseas – many of which have been counter to US national security and contrary to human dignity.

    The beauty of the embargo against Cuba is that a country that enjoyed the second highest standard of living in 1959 is today barely hanging on to fourth world status. Just barely. That is not our fault. That is Castro’s fault. He was shortsighted and stubborn, besides being a butcher of humanity, for yes he has killed just as Hussein killed. Saddam wasn’t smart enough to hide the bodies in an island off his country as Castro did in the Isle of Pines.

    In the case of North Korea one has to wonder how much farther the regime could have taken its nuclear program by now if it had not had to divert money by starving its people. We are not starving the North Korean Kim is. So, why should we feed his people?

    To have done otherwise in Korea would have meant that we would have not condoned what Kim is doing, while respecting his right to do it. This is a pattern of thought that did not work pre-1950, and is earning us increasing criticism and resentment today because it is being practiced, most unabashedly but effectively, in our relationship in Saudi Arabia.

    I like it when we have had leaders with resolve: FDR (Can you imagine Ike walking into Auschwitz after Germany had surrendered in 1945 and saying, “I don’t condone what the Nazi did, but I respect their right to do it?”)

    I also like JFK for saying “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of freedom.”

    Lastly, I agree when people say that the issue with Cuba is very emotional. I praise that it is emotional. In 1776, 2 out of 5 colonists in the thirteen British colonies supported separating from the British Empire. If it had not been for the emotions of people believing in ideas such as “As for me, give me liberty or give me death” where would we be today? Would Patrick Henry would have considered anything else?

    Interestingly enough, we have toned down his message. In actuality, he said ?Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Tough (emotional) talk, isn?t it?

    George Washington’s letters to Martha during his winter march toward Valley Forge are full of emotion (anger, despair, elation – you name it). John Adam’s vigorous devotion to the separation from Britain was also passionate. And, who can ever forget John Hancock’s humongous signature, and saying that the reason he wrote it so big was so that nearsighted King George could see it without glasses. By today’s standard that was a bit extreme, but I like it for what it helped to achieve.

    Even America the Beautiful, in the second verse, talks about the pilgrim’s “whose stern impassioned stress a thoroughfare through wilderness beat.” Reagan standing in front of the Berlin Wall shouting at Mikhail Gorbachev “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That was awesome. JFK saying that he was a Berliner – another brilliant and emotional statement. And, one of my all time favorites “We will not waver. We will not tire. We will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.” I don’t think that needs to be toned down at all. So, I choose passion as opposed to anything else.

    I left family in Cuba also. Many have died. Others have gone to Europe. It takes fortitude and perseverance to have conviction – that is, if one truly believes in something.

  16. Mark,

    I’m not just talking about Canada, I’m talking about the rest of the world, including Europe which economically can hold its own to the U.S.
    As another person accurately mentioned in this thread, the Castro regime forbids direct contact between Cubans and tourists. The money goes directly to Castro.

    Yes the U.S. has made some dubious alliances in the past. The examples you mention from Latin America can’t compare to Cuba because in some of those countries (Nicaragua and Panama in particular) the U.S. has intervened militarily or offered aid to anti-government forces. I don’t think too many American tourists flocked to Nicaragua and Panama in the 80s.

    Chile was able to overcome their dictatorship but not because of US tourists. You mentioned distance as a factor. If that indeed is important, then U.S. tourism would have little if any impact on Chile since it’s basically on the other side of the hemisphere.

  17. GOOD NEWS!!! YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO!! the better half will.

    CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION

    Exile group may visit Cuba

    The Cuban American National Foundation is encouraging its directors and other exiles to travel to Cuba in May to show solidarity with dissidents. A U.S. government official supports the idea.

    BY OSCAR CORRAL

    ocorral@herald.com

    For the first time, the Cuban American National Foundation is encouraging its directors to travel to Cuba — to participate in a meeting of dissidents, diplomats and journalists in Havana in May.

    CANF is urging other Cuban exile organizations to do the same in a show of solidarity with Cuba’s budding dissident movement. But its request was immediately rejected by CANF’s archrival, the more conservative Cuban Liberty Council.

    CANF’s declaration came in response to an invitation from dissidents planning the Assembly to Promote Civil Society on May 20.

    ”There will be a presence of directors and members of the foundation there,” CANF Chairman Jorge Mas Santos said Thursday. “We think it’s an opportune time.”

    The dissidents’ invitation, dated Feb. 25, is from Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, Rene de Jes?s Gomez Manzano and Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, three well-known pro-democracy activists on the island.

    ”This event will mark the turning point for the work that all the member entities in our coalition — more than 350 — are doing to help organize the development of a civil society in our country,” the dissidents wrote.

    In the past, CANF directors who wanted to travel to Cuba had to resign from the foundation on principle and for security reasons. Thursday’s announcement is the latest shift at a foundation that drove an especially hard line under founder Jorge Mas Canosa, but has more recently come under fire from mostly Republican critics for softening its approach toward Castro.

    The assembly is set to occur in a period of communist retrenchment in Cuba and has not been sanctioned by the Cuban government. Some skeptics believe Cuban President Fidel Castro will never allow it to take place. But already, the assembly has received broad international support and attention, and stopping it abruptly would further tarnish Cuba’s human rights record.

    MIGHT BE REJECTED

    Even if Cuban Americans receive a license from the U.S. government to travel to the meeting, the Cuban government can deny them entry.

    However, Mas Santos said CANF directors will find ways to get to the island without challenging current travel restrictions and without breaking U.S. law.

    For example, current law allows U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba to visit family only once every three years. Most foundation members have not been to Cuba in the past three years, so they can probably get a license to travel there rather easily. Several CANF directors and executive committee members live in other countries, which would make it easier for them to go.

    CANF has a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to send humanitarian aid to the island and may be able to use that license to send representatives to the meeting for ”humanitarian” reasons.

    U.S. Rep. Lincoln D?az-Balart, R-Miami, said he respects exiles who want to travel to Cuba legally to support the May 20 assembly, as well those who don’t want to go out of principle.

    A State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the U.S. government encouraged people to legally travel to Cuba to support the conference despite Bush administration initiatives to curtail travel to the island.

    The official said that U.S. citizens who apply for a travel license under the context of ”support for the Cuban people” have a good chance of getting a visa.

    `A RIGHT’

    ”Cubans in Cuba and Cubans in America have a right to encourage democratic change in Cuba,” the official said.

    “Anybody who is undertaking these activities, from my perspective, is doing God’s work. From a political perspective, does this make sense? Absolutely.”

    At least one other exile group, Democracy Movement, said it plans to send representatives to the meeting. President Ram?n Saul S?nchez declined to give details.

    . The Cuban Liberty Council said that it rejects the idea of traveling to Cuba for any reason while Castro remains in power. CLC Executive Director Luis Zu?iga said that the council is giving ”economic support” for the assembly but declined to provide details.

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