The Corner

The Cuban Exile Story: ‘Americans Cannot Understand How Deep Is the Hurt’

I’ve gotten several really moving e=mails from fellow Cuban-Americans in response to my NRO piece this morning, “Exile and the Revolution.” I’d like to share this one:

Dear Mr. Loyola:

I am 49 years old. My parents left Cuba in January 1961. My mother was from Placetas, and my father from Havana. While my mother was raised in Cuba, my father grew up in South America (Colombia, Uruguay, Argenina) as his father was a diplomat. My mother’s family name was Santiago. Today in Placetas there is a statue in a park of her brother, Tony Santiago. He fought with Castro, entered Havana with Castro in 1959, but only a year later was warning my mother, his sister, to leave the country. He died (killed?) in January 1961, days before my mother left Cuba.

My father worked at the Cuban embassy in Mexico in the 1950s. He remembers seeing Castro there and he knew, like many others, that Castro was hanging with Communists. While my mother believed in and supported in her small way the revolution, my father was fairly cynical about it.

In the first year of the Revolution, my father and uncle met with Che Guevara to discuss tobacco. My father and uncle worked in the tobacco business. Che is in no way an icon in our family. We know who he was. We know what he was. My daughter, who attends a very liberal private college in Massachusetts, actually confronted a young woman in the dining hall because she was wearing a Che t-shirt. My daughter is intellectually fierce and exceedingly articulate. She did not hold back in telling that young woman who Che really was.

Everything you state in your article about how these liberal newspapers built up Castro, how the left hides his many crimes, is so true. And the story you wrote could have been my family. In fact, when I saw Andy Garcia’s movie “The Lost City,” with my late mother, it was like watching the home movies from Cuba that we never had.

Americans cannot understand how deep is the hurt. I wasn’t even born in Cuba, I was born in Bogota during my parents’ first year of exile, and raised in Virginia. But once a year we traveled to Miami to visit family, and enjoy the food, language, music, the ambience. It is a void to not know the land of your parents. To not see my mother’s home.

My mother was the same age as Castro and I always hoped she’d outlive him. She died in June 2008. We honored her wishes. She was cremated and her ashes placed in the water off the coast of Key West. She wanted to float back to Cuba.

I cannot tell you how angry and hurt I’ve been to see this new attack on Marco Rubio. I’m seeing the beginning of a Democratic talking point, that his parents left Cuba before Castro so he’s not an exile, only to discredit him. Their ignorance is breathtaking. Their maliciousness cannot go unnoticed.

Thank you so much for writing this article. You spoke for all of us. You spoke for the generation that lost Cuba and who are now leaving us.

Mario Loyola is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program of Florida International University, and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone.


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