“Unresolved Mourning”

The Miami Herald has a feature article today which takes a closer look at the emotional state of Cuban exiles. There are no surprising or shocking revelations offered, it’s pretty much a detailed account of something Cuban exiles and second generation Cuban exiles have been dealing with our entire lives. The main point in the article is the “unresolved mourning” that many Cuban exiles still suffer through due to the constant reminders of what they left behind in Cuba. This condition is most acute in Miami, of course, due to geographical and cultural proximity to Cuba.
That’s all fine and dandy, and makes for pretty good psychological fodder, I presume.
The article’s intention wasn’t to offer a completely balanced look at Cuban exiles’ emotional state. Still, it seems kind of silly to think that Cuban exiles walk around in a zombie-like state all the time. Otherwise, how could we have accomplished even half of what we’ve able to do in this country and elsewhere.
Full article below the fold.


Cuban exiles trapped in emotional limbo
Is Castro dead or alive? Will there be change in Cuba? Now, an FIU professor has given a name to the emotional seesaw that plagues many Miami exiles — unresolved mourning.
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008
BY LUISA YANEZ
lyanez@MiamiHerald.com
At the Ferdinand Funeral Home and Crematory in Little Havana, family after family gathers at the exile community’s oldest parlor to pay their respects to abuelo or abuela. The refrain is often one of regret: Fidel Castro outlived their loved one.
For those Cubans left behind facing their own mortality, the yearning for change on the island continues, and so does the toll of 49 years of waiting for closure.
Now, Florida International University professor Eugenio Rothe has identified a name for the unique psychological condition of so many South Florida exiles: “unresolved mourning.”
It’s a term first coined by psychologist Sigmund Freud who used it to describe someone who cannot come to grips with the death of a loved one.
Rothe, who has spent years studying the exile psyche, makes the case that unresolved mourning is precisely the malaise faced by exiles who live in a city where any news about Castro brings a flurry of hope that he will die — and they will regain a lost life.
Last week’s bombshell about Castro’s retirement was just the kind of news Rothe suggests reopens wounds so many Cubans fight to bury.
Many members of what is now called ”the historic exile” — those forced to leave in the 1960s as adults — felt a wave of melancholy, as they were reminded all over again of their loss and heartaches. It’s all part of the emotional bungee cord that snaps exiles throughout South Florida at the hint of news about Castro and Cuba.
”For those older exiles, Cuba is like a dead person who somehow remains half alive, like a zombie, because they have never completed their mourning process of disconnecting and forming new bonds,” said Rothe, who will teach at FIU’s new College of Medicine and has published several articles and studies on the mental health of Cuban refugees.
Many exiles — ”emotionally injured” when their lives were derailed by Castro’s rise to power — reside within this emotional limbo, said Rothe, co-author of a paper on exile nostalgia which will soon be published in the Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies. ”In Miami, there is a constant reactivation of old wounds as exiles are bombarded with major news events related to the island or Castro so they can never completely let go,” said Rothe, the son of Cuban exiles.
It was 12 years ago Sunday, for example, that the Cuban government shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four local fliers. No one has been brought to justice, though U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have called for a federal government indictment of Raúl Castro, who as defense minister authorized the shooting.
In 2000, there was the bitter and drawn out battle between exiles and Castro to keep Elián González with his Miami relatives. The boy, whose mother drowned at sea attempting to escape Cuba, eventually was returned to his father in Cuba.
And most recently, in June 2006, the announcement that an ailing Castro was temporarily handing power to his brother Raúl, who Sunday is expected to be named Cuba’s next leader by the National Assembly.
All these events, Rothe said, have impacted the historic exiles’ recovery from the loss they experienced decades ago.
Rothe said that even the typical mourning process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — is different for Cubans in South Florida than it is for other Cubans because they are so geographically close to their homeland.
”They have a relationship with Cuba that is never allowed to die,” said Rothe, who added that exiles with feelings of unresolved mourning are destined for disappointment.
”At first they enjoy the bittersweet feel of the nostalgia, but then they are reminded that the past will never be again. Depression sets in when they realize what they yearned for can never be again,” Rothe said. “The old Cuba they knew is gone.”
The angst of unresolved mourning over Cuba, Rothe said, can be passed on from generation to generation.
Beba Sosa, daughter of beloved Cuban senator Emilio Ochoa — until last year the last remaining signer of Cuba’s historic 1940 constitution — says during days like these, her father, who lived to be 99, is often on her mind. ”He wanted to go back until the last minute of his life,” she said.
“He would tell me that he knew he was too old to hold a political post, but that he would like to offer advice to others.”
Near the end of his life, Sosa said: “He hated that he would not live to see the changes.”
For Raúl Martinez, the former mayor of Hialeah who is running for the congressional seat now held by Lincoln Diaz-Balart, news of Castro’s resignation was bittersweet.
He immediately thought of his father, Chin, a staunch anti-Castro fighter who died a year ago last week at 82.
Martinez watched his father readjust his life.
”My father came to Miami in April of 1960 thinking by that December he’d be back home to roast his Nochebuena pork,” Martinez said. “He like many older exiles didn’t get to go back and see the old country again.”
For some Cubans, even death provides no escape from the circle of unresolved mourning.
Fernando Caballero, owner of Ferdinand Funeral Home on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, says he hears the same request from Cubans preparing a loved one’s burial.
”A family member will usually ask at some point if the body can be taken back to Cuba — once Fidel falls,” Caballero said. “With the proper paperwork, the answer from us has always been yes. We’ll help take them back.”
Miami Herald staffer David Quinones contributed to this report.

1 thought on ““Unresolved Mourning””

  1. The mourning will be “unresolved” until those responsible for the death, torture, incarceration, and destruction of an entire country are judged for Crimes against Humanity.

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