By Yamil A. Rodriguez
Cuba prior to 1959 seemed like paradise to most, an oasis if you may, both to its citizens and foreigners alike that unequivocally flocked in droves to our island— a place so rich in cultural diversity, from its vibrant and ever-welcoming people to the pulsating music to its alluring flavorful cuisine. The laughter of its people and children playing happily together resonated in the air— alongside its energetic celebrations and the ‘carnavales’, flowing with the sensual and nostalgic sounds and fast paced seductive salsa dancing. Complete with the riveting and provocative rhythms of iconic music figures as Benny More’ and Celia Cruz— artists expressing and epitomizing a folk-style deeply-rooted in Afro-Cuban music loved profusely by various socio-classes, both rich and poor. It was the soulful music that unwittingly shook the spirit down-to-the-core; the melodies that compelled any person to unrestrainedly hit the dance floor. It unquestionably tied together our very-spirited caribbean island culture.
Cuba was a place deep-seated within a tight, traditional and respectful community which valued and embodied out-mostly the true significance of friendship and family, altogether with an honor system set firmly in place and respected by most— both villains and saints alike. It was by far such a beautiful country—altogether with its breath-taking dense landscape so stunning, with its distinctive palm trees spread throughout Cuba’s rolling hills. This was a fabulous place to live!
Then, by the tails-end of colonialism— the vivacious, sweet and sentimental sounds that surrounded and emitted from our once vivacious country— the paradise, and bearer of an immense amount of fruit that so many flocked to, soon-after, would quickly keep its bright lights dim, and its people dispersed. And forever the Cuba we once knew would be no more as it once was— collectively shattering the life we once knew.
– a man so convinced of his beliefs that he would liberate Cuba from the overbearing imperialists and past ideals conducted by bureaucrats, proxies and imposters put in place by the so called adversary, the United States of America— which time and time again maintained Cuba in a menacing chokehold. In those days, some of my people would place in cult-like fashion their trust in Castro— the redeemer, savior and modern-day visionary. He would certainly make things right!
What a crock of shit! Instead, he deceived the Cuban people directing them down the path of communism— the antiquated Marxist ideas together with unworkable political views, social and agrarian reform laws stealing our land. And within a few short years following his acquisition of power would it result in denouncing fundamental rights and freedoms bestowed onto all of us by a greater power— stripping us of rightfully deserving land and ultimately forcing us to vacate the homeland. And by Castro’s declaration, “I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be one until the last day of my life” says it all— displaying insolence to us all.
Although Castro and other “heroes” of the 1950s Cuban Revolution, like Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, respectively and affectionately regarded as ‘Che’, and Camilo Cienfuegos, whose disappearance in 1959 was rumored he may have been executed on Fidel’s orders, may have been sincere and determined in their belief system early on— to free peasant farmers that tiredly toiled the sugar cane fields, plantations if you may, with minimal compensation whilst kept illiterate, injustices committed against them by the ruling upper-class—nonetheless, something transformed Fidel Castro which eventually trickled down to the rest of us, causing a negative and devastating outcome in Castro’s now totalitarian, oppressive state. The result: the mutilation, cold-blooded mass murder and ultimately imprisonment of the thousands of fearless men and women, that to date, lay rest in unmarked graves. Hear my cries!
Reminisce— that fleeing Cuba was never something Mom, Dad or the several hundred-thousand Cubans, which since 1959 to the present day, ever considered. In actuality, this concept was virtually inconceivable. However, upon receiving preliminary notice hinting that very soon we would be granted safe passage out of Cuba— and as crazy as it seemed to mom back then, as it now does to me— Dad conjured the crazy idea of ensuing in Castro’s stride. Following in the footsteps of the revolution’s invasion of Cuba of hiding out in the countryside hoping this situation was short-term and would soon come to pass. However, dad was in deep denial that the time had come. We were fleeing Cuba!
We would be leaving behind Benny More’ forever, and the ideals of Cuba’s true liberator from the tyrannical Spanish crown, Jose Marti—someone Fidel contended with— that personified the true meaning of freedom and justice. I suppose Dad and many others naively believed Cuba was not a place people fled from, but rather a place people flocked to. And to our dismay and irrespective to what occurred here, nevertheless, in our hearts, Cuba will always remain free as it once was, and to never be forgotten, forever remembering those who laid down their lives to keep Cuba at liberty.