When you control the narrative, you establish what is really “real” for the thinking class.

squalor

Yeah. Tell this story, and the New York Times will eat it up. Tell a different story and they won’t even acknowledge your existence. This is what the entire thinking class of the United States will be talking about at the next dinner party when the subject of Cuba comes up. Never mind the death of Oswaldo Paya, the hundreds of monthly arrests, the suppression of all human rights. This is what seems right to the editors of the Sacred Scriptures of the thinking class, and this is what gets published, creating a hellish hall of mirrors in which every reader and the editors get to see their narcissistic superior selves reflected into infinity.

Would they publish an essay by the father of this essayist, or promote his not-yet-finished book? Never. He is a troglodyte, and an inferior human being, because he is “rabidly” opposed to an injustice that they — the superior class — consider a valiant and worthwhile experiment in social justice.

Don’t Tell Dad, I’m Going to Cuba

I LIED to my father, told him we were on Cape Cod when, in fact, we were bouncing around the battered streets of Havana in our friend José’s 1953 Chevrolet Deluxe, the one with the new Toyota engine but no working gauges on the dash. Nothing about Cuba is easy. Not the politics, not the crazy convertible peso and definitely not the getting there. But as a Cuban-American trying to connect with the last twigs of our family tree in Havana, the biggest obstacle I faced was my father’s disapproval.

My working-class parents originally supported the revolution — my mother even sold bonds and collected medicine for the rebels. But after it triumphed, politics became the center of life, and the new society demanded daily doses of vigilantism, denunciations and repression of the self. My parents muzzled themselves, applied for permission to leave the country, waited years for it to come, and finally, in 1967, immigrated to the United States.

Now my 80-year-old father, like many older exiles, vehemently criticizes Cuban-Americans who return. Papi sees each dollar, bar of soap and laser printer we bring back to our families as power flowing into the Castro brothers’ hands. When I told him I was considering a trip to Cuba, he fought hard to dissuade me, calling me daily from his home in New Hampshire. “Don’t you see you’re keeping those bastards in power? Cuban-Americans threw $4 billion at that economy last year! You’re legitimizing their repression! After all we did to get you out, now you want to go back?”

I did. Since I’d left as a 6-year-old, I’d been back only once, in 1999. I wanted to know my cousins. And now that the Obama administration had loosened some travel restrictions, I wanted my husband and son to see where I was from.

For months, Papi and I argued on the phone, over kitchen tables, side by side in cars. When the Cuban P-11 visa I’d applied for last April finally arrived in August, I cooked up a lie to spare him — and myself — some pain. If Papi asked for us, I told the 27 members of our family, say we’re on Cape Cod, out of cellphone range.

We flew to Havana on one of the charters that brings hundreds of thousands of my cohort to the island every year. Immediately, my cousin Patricia and I fell into the kind of five-day-long conversation we’d spun on my last trip. My Jewish husband and son folded into her buzzing household like natives; in no time they were shirtless in the 95-degree heat, following the other men out to the front porch to sip café from tiny cups and listen to the chants of street vendors selling sunglasses, “with bifocals or without!” I stayed inside with Patricia’s kids, facing the fan, building a model of the solar system with Diego and sewing a princess doll for Verónica. Embargo-busting love was in the air.

On our last afternoon, we drove to my old barrio on the outskirts of Havana. Juanelo was never much to look at, but now the houses seemed to lean more than stand, and moldering stucco walls showed their bricks like bones. But the neighbors streamed out of their houses and the kissing began. They fed us stories about my grandparents, aunts and uncles, about my father playing baseball and my mother teaching children to read. The old women smelled of soap and wore clean cotton batas de casa. Holding my hand, Nena, 90 years old, told her daughter to run and get the pictures. The photos showed our family in New Hampshire over the years, photos my grandmother, aunt or mother had sent years ago.

Nena reminded me of an old woman I met at a market on my last trip to Cuba. She was selling necklaces of beans and seeds, coconut shell bracelets, trinkets. We were chatting when she stopped suddenly. “You’re from over there! You didn’t forget us! Take anything from my table. My gift. But don’t forget us! You see, when the old women there die, and the old women here die, it all ends.”

If you can stomach more of this offensive drivel, continue reading here.

7 thoughts on “When you control the narrative, you establish what is really “real” for the thinking class.”

  1. “But don’t forget us! You see, when the old women there die, and the old women here die, it all ends.”

    Only with dishonest, morally bankrupt offspring such as this woman, who profoundly disrespects her parents does it die.

    Really, she traded that to hold the hand a women who reminds her of another selling necklaces of beans and seeds, coconut shell bracelets, trinkets, to tourists viewing slaves in a cage?

  2. This may be morbid curiousity, but the thoughts of your husband would have been interesting. Oddly, when I visited Guyana the expatriates were more curious about my adventures than hers. I know I could not blend in with the locals. As I was saddled with relatives due to crime issues I let them talk.

    I am convinced Cuba will recover quickly once Chavez is forced to cut the subsidies.

  3. Leave it up to the New York Times to again hammer in the “generational shift” myth and to once more villanize the older Cuban exile generations. The opportunistic author of this piece and hopeful author of a memoir [who no doubt understands the NYT’s importance for a successful book ] even makes us as guilty as castro’s regime. As if Cuba’s problems could simply be reduced to intransigence on both sides of the Florida straits. It’s tragic that so many Cuban Americans are willing to sell themselves, their families and their former homeland so easily.

  4. Ray, selling out cheap is at least as old as Esau, and it’s not just a Jewish problem. Opportunism was always a major problem among Cubans.

  5. One of the saddest things about this person is that the NYT is only using her; it doesn’t respect her any more than it does “those people.” She’s merely a good little Cuban. Ugh.

  6. Cubans or Cubanoids like this woman, on and off the island, are far more of an obstacle to Cuba’s cure and recovery at this point than some decrepit old wreck who used to be the “Maximum Leader.” Yes, Fidel will die before too long, but what about the much younger and VERY numerous Cubans who have as little dignity as this specimen? I mean, the very least she could have done, at little or no cost to herself, was to honor her parents’ sacrifice and loss on HER behalf by respecting their wishes, certainly while they were still alive. Instead, not only did she ignore that, but gives no indication of guilt or shame, rather speaking of her father, to my ears, as some quaint, outmoded relic who deserves no better than being first deceived and then humored. But yes, it’s all perfect for the NYT, and I expect she knew it and took advantage of it. And no, I have no respect for someone like her. None.

  7. So is she voting for Obama or what? I lost considerable respect for some relatives who made an expensive “pilgrimage” to Cuba, supposedly so their kids could, you know, learn about their roots. Getting their kids to learn about dignity and self-respect was apparently not as big a priority. Lord have mercy.

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