Old Pictures: A Cuban Exile Story
Thanksgiving Day among America’s most thankful


If Communism was in conflict with human nature, it was particularly in conflict with the nature of Cubans. With no incentive for people to get ahead, commercial activity nosedived. According to Soviet archives, Cubans habitually falsified records to exaggerate production and hide theft. The planned economy fell apart from the very start. It was one of historys most vertiginous peacetime impoverishments of an affluent society.

Today, Cuba continues its lonely journey through the infinite calamities of Castros dictatorship.In recent years, the state has announced such blockbuster democratic reforms as letting people buy toasters and letting barbers keep part of what they charge. More significant market reforms are withdrawn as unexpectedly as they are announced. Dissidents are still routinely detained and beaten. Disgustingly, the victims of these beatings include young women, such as the blogger Yoani Sánchez, and elderly women, such as Laura Pollán, former leader of the group Ladies in White, who recently died in a state hospital after years of intimidation and physical abuse by government-organized mobs. In the last year, many political prisoners have been released from prison, in shockingly poor health, and immediately exiled to Spain. So much for the hope that Raúl Castro would liberalize anything.

Meanwhile, if Cubans turned out to be terrible Communists, they have made great Americans. The young kid who swept the floor of the local Burger King in the 1960s rose to become VP of operations. The one who started at Kelloggs as a sales rep rose to become CEO and U.S. secretary of commerce. The Cuban-American community now has a median income slightly higher than that of America as a whole.

For our families, America has been a dream of loss redeemed; of sacrifice repaid; and ofhumiliations undone. The humble dignity with which our parents and grandparents lived out their lives in exile was one inspiration to my generation. Another was their gratitude to America. And yet another was their staunch conservatism in defense of the principles that made America great: freedom, limited government, and self-reliance.

For Cuban-exile families, the American dream continues to play out against that old black-and-white family picture. But those in my generation are the protagonists now. It has fallen to us to build in this country something that can make up for what our families lost in theirs. 

We grew up being told that everything is possible in America. Now its our turn to prove that its true, and to make sure it stays true. Thats why so many of us feel called to public service. America has given us  and our families  as much to be grateful for as anyone in America.

The greatness of this country needs defending in every generation. Now its our turn.

— Mario Loyola is director of the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.