Cubanos in Wisconsin, a wonderful book written by our friend Silvio Canto Jr., with the assistance of his son Gabriel, is a must have addition to your library.
From the quiet Cuban town of Ciego to the bustling city of Havana, no Cubans were unaffected by Fidel Castro’s rise to power in the late 1950’s. Fidel’s Revolución, which began with rallies, parades, and truckloads of hope, smothered the island of Cuba with oppressive public policies that gutted the small nation’s system of enterprise and muzzled the vibrant Cuban culture of the 1950s. Symbols of capitalism were torn down and private schools were replaced with “Revolutionary Schools” established to spread Castro’s message. The country’s religious leaders were excommunicated and proud Cuban traditions like the Cuban Winter Baseball League became Fidel’s props, instruments for social and economic control. As more and more dissenters were imprisoned or killed fighting shadow wars to overthrow the regime, it was clear that human rights had become a fairy tale that existed across the sea in America. Following the failed, US-led invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Fidel’s death grip on the island grew unbearable. Like scores of other Cubans, Silvio Canto’s family fled their home country for the opportunity to lead a life of peace and freedom. The journey to freedom would not be easy. Before they left the island, the family faced boisterous Cuban officials and food shortages. Silvio watched in horror as his father’s attempt to maintain autonomy repeatedly ended in vain and his mother’s frustration with the new Cuba reached a tipping point. Leaving the island was only the first step toward their eventual resettling in a faraway land called Wisconsin. Along the way the family faced an earthquake in Mexico City, poverty and dismay in Jamaica, and culture shock in America. They lost their way of life, their country, and their dreams of a free Cuba but, with the support of family and friends, the family started a new life and formed a new identity. They became Cubanos in Wisconsin.
On March 21, Silvio was the guest on the New John Batchelor Show. Their conversation mirrors the atmosphere of the book; a loving tribute to the Canto family, the lost Cuba they left behind, and those who helped them along the way. Silvio shares his story with warmth, and a profound respect and appreciation for the people and places inhabiting his family’s journey. Listen to the show here.