The Home Stretch

It would seem that we are in the home stretch boys and girls. No matter how hard they tried all the tyrants men couldn’t put the monster from Biran back together again.

The above comment from Henry in the Otto Reich post below hit me like a ton of bricks. This despite the fact that I have theorized and stated that I believe fidel castro is dead.

There will be much editorializing and theorizing and back and forth in the coming months about the future of Cuba: about its government, the people, its economy, the embargo…everything. But before our thoughts get drowned out by all that noise coming from all around, by all the celebrations down Calle Ocho and all the newscasts, by all the hoopla from all over the world over the passing of the “humanitarian” tyrant and all the funeral processions and crocodile tears shown on CNN and Fox News and elsewhere, we should reflect on what the death of fidel castro means to us on a personal level.

Every single one of us lucky enough to live in exile has a similar story, yet each one of our stories is different. If we get caught up in the celebrations or the arguments we stand a chance to lose a part of our history, a part of our lives in the fray. What our families have been through may very well be clouded by the changes that we are all expecting will come and all the hard work that will be necessary.

So before we open our champagne bottles and raise our glasses to teary eyes toasts, let’s think about what the death of the tyrant means to us.

I urge all of you who comment here on a regular basis to share your thoughts with the rest. And I beg all of you who come here every day and lurk yet never comment, to participate. Make this post the occassion of your first comment here on Babalú, this moment is, after all, what we have all been working and waiting for.

I dont know exactly how I will feel when the news is made official, but I do know that my first thoughts will be of my grandparents, E.P.D., who as the family’s patriarchs led the rest of us into this unknown world called the United States and who instilled in me Cubanidad without knowing it, simply by being themselves and raising and caring for their family as they did. On that day, I will place a white rose at their graves and thank them for their foresight and courage.

I will honor my parents, both of whom at the age that I am now, were subjected to horrors unimaginable to me and whose determination to save their children from a life of hatred and indoctrination made them begin life anew in a new country with a new language and a new culture. They arrived here naked and toiled the rest of their lives to clothe me and my sister with freedom. I will go to their home that day, the home where I was raised here in exile, and I will shed more than a few tears. I know that they will perhaps never return to Cuba but I will promise them that I will one day see the home where I was born. I will one day lay flowers on the graves of lost loved ones in Cuba. I will one day see what caused them so much pain to leave.

I will high five my nieces and nephew and assure them that they will soon have that small piece that they’ve been missing having been born away from that island. That their children will one day be able to play on the streets of Bayamo or Manati or Victoria de las Tunas, just like their uncle once did, just like their grandfather did, just like their great grandparents once did. They have just as much right to a free Cuba as any other Cuban. Their souls are, after all, made with Cuban blood.

The death of the tyrant means that that name will never need be spoken again and that the wounds he caused may finally begin to heal.

And on that day, after all of that, if my sorrows have not yet learned to swim, I will drown them in champagne.

41 thoughts on “The Home Stretch”

  1. I comment here only from time to time and I’m not Cuban either, American born and bred, but Castro has been the bogey-man for as long as I can remember and it surprised me realize just how much I look forward to his exit stage left if that means a chance of freedom for the Cubans. I can only imagine how much deeper that same feeling runs in the hearts of the Cuban people, no matter where they happen to live.

    I happen to have a bottle of champagne in the fridge looking for an occasion; I think I just found it.

  2. For my abuela Maria and my abuelo Rogelio, who told me they wanted to be reburied in the soil of their patria.

    ¡Al fin llego el momento!

  3. Val, whenever you write these posts I cry like a baby. These posts make me think of my parents and grandparents, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to leave the country I was born in. Harder even to imagine is, if I ended up in a country where the culture and language were different.

    I too will think of the ones that have passed, waiting for such a day, before I go dancing in the streets. I’ll have a drink to my abuela Maria & abuelo Polo and all the abuelas and abuelos, mamas y papas que no pudieron disfrutar de ese dia.

  4. I hardly ever post here though I visit a gazillion times a day. A while back Val prompted all readers to write “the post”. I took his advise and did so. It was a painful and tearful experience, but I can honestly tell you it changed me and propelled me to channel the rage I’ve always felt into something productive. Now I channel my rage daily on a blog and its great therapy. Don’t think about it, do it. Do it for the future, do it as a testament to the suffering of our people. I promise you will regain a lot of what the tyrant has taken from us.

  5. If this is true now in October 2006, the SCUMBAG BASTARD (1 yr older) outlived my father by 10 years. Time to pay now you fucking bastard!

  6. I will remember, on the day of the official announcement, something my mother said: no hay mal que dure cien anos ni cuerpo que lo resiste. “Nor body that can support it”, my loose translation of the last of that old Cuban saying. She hit the nail square on. Fidel accumulated so much evil that in the end he died from within. Poetic. My mother was a true Guantanamera, born in Yateras, bailando un changui, tomando agua ardiente y llamando un espiritista para sacar el mal de ojo. The real horror at the end of moms life, when she and we knew the end was near for her, was that she had five grandaughters in Cuba who were desperate to see her one last time. She was equally desperate to have them around her fussing over her. It didn’t happen. I fight back tears writing about it. I will open the champaigne I will light the cigar but I will never forget. And you know what? I will never forgive either.

  7. When that official announcement comes, I will cry like a baby, just like I am now reading this. I’ll think of all those I know who lost everything because of that bastard, especially Mrs. Baker and a few others who have passed on without ever seeing their homes or family again. I’ll think of all the victims, of all the waste and loss and suffering he’s caused for which there is no justice. I’ll drink that champagne, but I’m saving the real celebration for that day when I can step off a plane in a free Cuba.

  8. Being born and raised here, but hearing the stories from my grandparents, and uncles, and cousin who was in prison for 10 years, and the stories of countless of people throughout the years, those that survived and those who perished, the physical death of evil incarnate (he’s been spiritually dead for over 46 years) will be bittersweet. One can imagine how his death say 10, 20, 30 40 years ago could have saved so many tens of thousands of people.

    While I will gladly toast to the death of the tyrant, with perhaps some fine spirit: scotch. But the fat lady has not yet finished her aria. When communism dies in Cuba, as it did in Eastern Europe, then that will truly be a day of victory and rejoice. On that day, it’s beluga caviar and champagne.

  9. And one more thing, after reading Ziva’s comments, the day I step foot on free cuban soil with a bunch of cameras to photograph the island and its people for perhaps an entire month, I will celebrate with with some cuban cigars and mojitos produced by a free people. That will truly be the best celebration.

  10. I am a Cuban born in Cuba and raised here in the States.

    Yes I will be happy when castro dies, but I will forgive because that is what we have been taught to do, or have us Cubans forgotten our religion??

    My father is a psychologist and has said many times that Castro probably has paranoid personality disorder among other mental illnesses. Too bad he was never treated for his illness. Let us hope and pray that Cuba will be led by good and decent people who have CUBANS interest at heart and not that of themselves or of their outside country. But having said that- I can’t wait to visit with champagne in hand.

  11. Hate to rain on your literal parade but Baby Doc had a Popi and Lil Kim is only a junior. What’s the cause celebre if the world’s leftists (especially Hollyweird and the Euro-trash elite) simply use the occassion to egrandise him as the world’s workingclass martyr who started a workingclass utopia. You watch! They are going to make a celebration (even Holiday) after this man. His funeral will actually dwarf the Pope’s and will be paid for by various governments, organizations (including non-profit)and idividuals,all of whom you are very well aware of. The world will see only sound bites of Calle Ocho. THIS WILL BE THE TRAGEDY. Fidel’s victims will be left to the side of the road, forced to watch a bunch of hypocrites trip over themselves to make accolades supporting a lifestyle they never had to bear, one which ironically would never bear the likes of them. If I was a Cuban- American I try to would mobilize as many of my brothers as possible to make certain that Calle Ocho’s sound bite counts. First, I would show the world my anger at their celebration. Make them feel shame. People of the world should know Fidel’s crimes and it should be emphasized how much of the world’s [free] press simultaneously chose self-censorship for Fidel’s benefit. Name the traitors! Posters or billboards should show the names of prisoners and his murder victims. His daughter should be invited as a grand marshal. Large protest signs should display photos of HIS homes juxaposed vs the markets and homes the general pop. But first & foremost it should be stressed that the world should be ashamed to celebrate or honor this man.

  12. In the 1850s, Cuban exile José Agustín Quintero,
    wrote in New Orleans the poem “El banquete del desterrado.” Here are a few of its stanzas:

    Destino amargo y severo,
    a tierra extraña nos lanza;
    ved el cielo que sombrío;
    no hay ni un rayo de esperanza!
    Mas ríamos de las penas,
    la espumante copa alzad,
    un brindis por los que han muerto!
    Hurrah por la libertad!

    Nuestro corazón oprime
    pesada mano de hierro,
    más con júbilo venimos
    al banquete del desterrado.
    La copa alzad! Nuestra orquesta
    es la horrenda tempestad…
    Un brindis por los que han muerto!
    Hurrah por la libertad!

    Mirad, mirad el pasado,
    fuerza en que la fe sucumba:
    ¿no véis? es un cementerio!
    Cada esperanza una tumba!
    Mas se encienden nuestras frentes,
    otra vez la copa alzad!
    Un brindis por los que han muerto!
    Hurrah por la libertad!

  13. Shame ON you Glenn S!

    So you WANT Cuban americans to look crazy and vitriolic so more people will push us out to the fringes of society and be seen as chihuahuas ready to bite??? NO. Your view is not a good one and I fear you are using our collective hate as a way of causing even more hatred and pain. Again I say “Shame on you”!

  14. I’m an American girl, the daughter of a man who spent his military career putting a stick in the spokes of Soviet-era tyranny. I was aware of how much people suffer when they are not free. The words I have to offer are not mine, but are those of a great band. This song was written as the USSR finally fell:

    HERESY–by Rush

    All around that dull gray world
    From Moscow to Berlin
    People storm the barricades
    Walls go tumbling in.

    The counter revolution
    People smiling though their tears
    Who can give them back their lives
    And all those wasted years?

    All those precious wasted years
    Who will pay?

    All around that dull gray world
    Of ideology
    People storm the marketplace
    And buy up fantasy.

    The counter revolution
    At the counter of a store
    People buy the things they want
    And borrow for a little more.

    All those wasted years
    All those precious wasted years
    Who will pay?

    Do we have to be forgiving at last?
    What else can we do?
    Do we have to say goodbye to the past?
    Yes I guess we do.

    All around this great big world
    All the crap we have to take
    Bombs and basement fallout shelters
    All our lives at stake.

    The bloody revolution
    All the warheads in it’s wake
    All the fear and suffering
    All a big mistake.

    All those wasted years
    All those precious wasted years

  15. The beginning of the end is near us. Cubans, Cuban-Americans and all others who have had their lives affected by Fidels dictatorship will be able to look forward to a new CUBA.

  16. RS-Thank you for posting those incredible lyrics by the Band Rush!
    …all those wasted years
    all those precious wasted years…
    So sad and so true all at the same time.

  17. Frankly, I don’t think Fidel’s death will mean a damn thing, and it will hardly be worth celebrating if his “revolution” lives on — ESPECIALLY if it lives on without any unrest, revolt, etc., upon the news of his death.

    I’ll say this: If news of Fidel’s death is met WITHOUT celebration, unrest, protests, etc., in Cuba, then I’m DONE with worrying about the plight of Cuba’s populace. If Castro’s death doesn’t inspire change in Cuba, nothing will.

  18. Perhaps the tyrant death will no bring changes to Cuba in the near future. Perhaps raul takes over and manages to stay in power for a very long time. But nevertheless will be a cause of celebration or better yet remembering all those years that I spend in Cuba suffering under his dominant regime. Listening to all those lies and being unable to fight back. Being constantly watching over my shoulders, so the wrong expression won’t land me in jail. Growing up in Cuba was hard, very hard and marked me for the rest of my live.

    His death will give me the opportunity of start healing and put all those memories aside. I will never forgive him because I am human. But I can then start looking ahead as slowly the government machinery start to disintegrate and the Cuban people takes over their own future and start the country reconstruction. Probably will not happen overnight but it have to happen because the worse will be behind and I have to trust my constructive people. We are Cubans carajo they will give me one more reason to be proud of it.

    I complete agree with Glenn poster. It is our job. The job of every Cuban disseminated around the world to make sure that the true is known. That all those that fell attracted by his empty speeches fell ashamed. Yes, the pictures and histories of all those victims have to be shown all over, again and again. WE CAN’T NEVER FORGET NOR FORGIVE HIM.

  19. I am a serious lurker here at Babalu, but have never posted. I felt compelled today to add a piece of my own story.
    I was born in Cuba. My family left early in 1961. We made our lives here in the US as so many exiles before us. We kept our language and our culture and continue to do so.
    Before my father passed away in 1999, he asked if I would take his ashes back to Cuba and scatter them in Pinar del Rio. I agreed.
    I was set to fulfill his last wishes and had made arrangements in March of 2003.
    When the 75 dissidents were jailed, I cancelled my trip and vowed I would not return to my homeland until Fidel Castro was dead.
    The recent news has me reflecting on how it may not be much longer before I can keep my promise to Papi.
    Every Noche Buena for as long as I can remember,we have a traditional toast. Now it seems it could be a real possibility: “El año que viene estamos en Cuba.”

  20. I’m sitting here thinking of how I will feel when the news is confirmed. And I can’t help but think that there hasn’t been a day in my life when I haven’t thought about Cuba in one way or another and that throughout my entire life…Cuba has been associated with castro.

    Just the thought that his malevolent presence is gone fills me with great hope for the future. Yes it will take time. Yes it will be expensive. Yes, Yes, Yes to all the hardship and sacrifice that is to follow. But the very fact that he is gone will cause the hatred and violence that he has planted to begin to dissipate.

    I believe that this death will cause a dark veil to begin to lift from the Cuban people and that Cuba has many good things in store for the future.

    I wish my Father, Brother and Grandparents could have been here to see it.

  21. My parents, grandparents, and I came to the US in 1961 when I was only 2 and a half years old, which makes me the same age as the Cuban Revolution. To think that the Beast from Biran has been governing the island throughout my 47 years of existence, is absolutely mind boggling, while at the same time heartbreaking. I have watched my grandparents and parents all pass away and it hurts so much how much they wanted to see this day. I plan to celebrate the day I know for sure Fidel has died, but my heart will also ache thinking of what my family never got to see. The REAL celebration will be when the communist government falls and I finally get to see my homeland. I can’t begin to imagine the emotions I will be feeling as I step foot on Cuban soil for the first time since my family and I went to “el exilio”. To roam around the same streets my parents and grandparents once did, and see the house I was born in. To see the land that up until now seemed like some unreachable fairytale land, where according to my mother, and many other Cubans of her generation, everything was better there than here. I know it has been destroyed by 47 years of neglect, but I have hope that it will be restored someday in the not too distant future. Perhaps it won’t be the fairytale paradise it once was, but I think it can become something new and wonderful if we all do what we can to make it happen!

  22. I agree with 33139. If the revolution lives on with Raul or any of that regime AND the people don’t revolt—-what a sad commentary that will be! Let’s hope that never happens.

  23. I hope and pray the asshole is dead. I like some people here am not cuban, like retread says he has been the bogeyman all my life. I think back to growing up my cuban friend her family came here and struggled to make a new life they were a happy family but there was always a profound sadness in their house. That ass wreaked countless lives. One cuban I worked with called himself the future casstro killer his father I beleave died in the prison system. I will party with my family with cuban food drinks and music that happy day.

  24. There will be celebrating for sure – a bottle or two of my finest Aussie red, shared at home with family and friends. Oh, yes …
    But then, I think it will be back to work. There is no guarantee that Castro’s death (Ya viene llegando …) will result in democratic change in Cuba. That will be the real challenge ahead – to ensure a new, democratic, multi-party, peaceful and prosperous Cuba. When that happens, then we can REALLY celebrate.

  25. One of the very first things I ever wrote that made me really flex my creative muscle was a short story in junior high that detailed the elaborate assassination of fidel castro.

    Heavy duty stuff for a kid in his early teens: I wrote of the pilot whose last thoughts on his one-way mission were of the struggles of his parents and grandparents and of how his actions that day would echo freedom for his children.

    I’ll never forget that story. I had never before put to words my own thoughts and emotions regarding that tyrant; thoughts that, for the first time, went beyond mere echoes of my family’s sentiments. You would think adults – teachers and family – would be concerned that this child wrote about ending a life. But although I scribed fidel’s fiery death with a previously un-tapped passion, they understood that the story wasn’t about murder. No; the story was about the destruction of a symbol and the end of a darkness that had smothered and crippled an entire people.

    And now as we approach that moment – with less action but no less drama – my eager anticipation and illimitable rage race toward an apex that not even the sobering reality of an uncertain future can temper.

    casro’s death will only be the first step toward a free and stable Cuba; but on the day of that joyous step, I will bask in its warm justice and toast its bubbly satisfaction.

  26. Hope i didn’t get too carried away there…

    I might also celebrate the moment by flying to new york, going to central park, and pissing on his shiny new statue. I think that would be an appropriate eulogy.

  27. This is the man who came closest to bringing a nuclear Armageddon to the Americas. …a man who has mercilessly killed the innocent with feigned righteousness. …a man who has enslaved a whole people for ego spawning a diaspora on a scale not seen before in this hemisphere.

    History will not absolve him.

    Save a little patch of Calle Ocho for me. I’ll see you all there.

  28. God bless America!
    Cuba libre!

    I hope the bastard dies real bad and hard like real soon – and I hope his cross dressing bro gets the same and his whole family – the Castro family is exiled out of Cuba forever! I really wanted Castro to be killed, especially by angry Afro Cubans, but we can’t have eveything.

    And I hope all the celebs and his friends around the world are hounded to shame and ridicule for loving the Hitler of the latter half of the 20th century. Am I mad and full of vengence? You betcha! Why? Because he took our parent’s lives – and he ruined a country and killed its sons, he sold the richness and the treasures – I mean I am American and I was born here, I have no property in Cuba, but deep down I am also Cuban so I mourn and cry for how he has raped the island and how millions have had to die in exile becuase the whims of aN INSANE BASTARD – and I hope Harry belofante and Danny Glover and reps from the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES are arrested in a free Cuba and tried for human rights crimes. DIE FIDEL and BURN IN HELL!

  29. My family came from a very small town, the kind where everybody actually knew everybody else (sort of like a Cuban version of Mayberry on the old Andy Griffith show). My father, especially, absolutely loved it there; he was made for that sort of environment, and he was in his element. He never would have left all his relatives, friends and way of life except for one reason: to save his children.

    If he’d had any hesitation, my mother had none. She was one of the minority of Cubans who never fell for Castro, ever, and once he showed his true colors she was literally horrified. She was obsessed with getting her kids out of that snake pit, and if that had meant leaving my father behind, she’d have done it. All she knew is we couldn’t stay there to become pawns and minions of that system, or brainwashed robots. In my house, there wasn’t one iota of sympathy for anybody who wanted to send Elian back to that hell hole, father or no father.

    As I said, my parents left for only one reason, their children. They paid a high price, particularly emotionally, to save us. My mother, who was her father’s favorite child, never saw him again, or her mother, or her youngest sister. She never got the hang of life in this country (we didn’t settle in Miami) and retreated into her home life and immediate family. She’d been a schoolteacher in Cuba and made sure her kids not only spoke Spanish at home but also learned to write and read in Spanish (we didn’t have bilingual education in school here).

    My father did fine in material terms, but there was no way he could replace or recreate the sort of life he’d loved and lost. It was in his bones, and it was never the same in the US; it couldn’t be. He didn’t sit around moping or acting depressed, but I think he was never truly happy here. His last few years were clouded by illness and dementia, not as bad as Alzheimer’s, but bad enough. And yet, he still remembered his life in Cuba, and he never stopped talking about going back. Frequently, he’d ask me if his passport was in order and if I’d bought the plane tickets. Of course I humored him, but every time he asked it broke my heart, because I knew I was the reason he’d left Cuba, and I knew he’d never see it again.

    There’s nothing special about my story; it’s only too common. For some of my relatives it was worse, and for all too many Cubans, far worse. I’ve done and am doing what I can to honor my parents’ sacrifice, but I can’t give them back what they lost. I know they’d do it all over again if they had to, but it’s very sad and makes me very angry. And if anybody presumes to tell me I shouldn’t be happy over Castro’s disappearance, the kindest thing I can say is that person doesn’t have the slightest clue.

  30. First of all, thanks for the post Val. I didn’t know a single thought could be the catalyst for the depth of feelings expressed here.

    The day that fidel castro dies will not be the end. It will not be the beginning of the end. It WILL be the beginning of the beginning of the end though, and thus it WILL be a cause for celebration. I don’t know what will happen but I can tell you what won’t happen.

    There won’t be dramatic changes in the immediate days and possibly weeks after the death but there will be changes under the surface that we won’t be able to detect. Those changes will result in more changes that will make the situation less stable for the ruling regime.

    There won’t be justice meted out to the perpetrators of the crimes. I can almost assure you of that. As much as we would want cosmic accounts to be settled here on earth, they won’t be. Look at World War II and the historic nuremberg trials. Only a handful of those guilty were tried and even fewer were convicted. No, we won’t get justice here on earth though we should try, even if it’s just to bring attention to the tragedy to the rest of the world. But God will have to sort it all out. I wouldn’t want to be him on the judgment day.

    I’ll be celebrating fidel’s death because I’ve come to a realization. That fidel was the only person that could have kept this putrid regime going all of these years. In his uniquely evil giftedness he was the only one. Others will pay lipservice to him (especially in the beginning) but they won’t be able to keep the charade going for too long.

  31. No, justice will not be done. The best one can hope for is that the worst criminals will pay, but many or most of them already have money and property set up outside Cuba for a potential escape. Basically, the horror has gone on too long, the number of crimes of every sort is practically infinite, and those who are guilty, directly or indirectly, are too numerous. Then there are all those who are friends or relatives of the guilty and would want them spared, and so on. I hope Cuba doesn’t turn out to be another Nicaragua or Russia, which are absolutely disgusting situations, but that could happen.

    I suppose when something is screwed up badly enough long enough, only God can sort it out.

  32. I have been reading this blog for a few months, but have never posted. I have shed many tears reading all the stories posted above. My parents, sisters and I arrived from Cuba in 1965. I was 7 years old. Even at that tender age, I remember being filled with sadness at leaving my beautiful country behind. We settled in New York, which could not have been a more different place from our island home. Of my parents, it was my mother who was the most adamant that we should leave Cuba. Strangely, she had the most to lose, as she never saw her beloved parents and sister again. Most of my father’s side of the family came to the U.S. However, he was never the same person he had been in Cuba. He became a bitter and broken man who never recovered from leaving everything behind.

    My parents were both professionals and they worked hard to learn English, become licensed in their careers, and raise four children in this land. They spent their entire lives dreaming of their country and fighting a deep melancholy and longing.

    My mother, a beautiful woman, and a gifted architect, died from advanced Alzheimer’s two years ago. I believe that her years in exile, and the pain of never seeing her parents again, brought on her illness at the age of 65. My father died last November, a sad man, who never saw his country again or enjoyed the fruits of all his sacrifice and hard work.

    My parents never wanted their children to visit Cuba, and the realization that Fidel is dying and that I might be able to visit one day soon, has profoundly affected me. Many feelings of sadness, longing, and anger have come to the surface. I am awed by the immense courage and selflessness it took to leave all they had ever known and venture to an unknown land. I am humbled by the love and sense of obligation they felt for their children. I hurt for the fact that my parents didn’t live to see this day, but I rejoice that I might soon be able to visit my homeland.

    Thanks Val for your work on this blog. It means so much to me. Reading the posts from other cubanos who share my life experiences and loss is a very reaffirming and comforting thing.
    God bless you!

  33. On the day that we see a free Cuba my feet will step on Cuban soil to stay. I will thank America for the refuge in our exile and I will thank God for the opportunity to return to Cuba for good.

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