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.
That is the price of freedom.