In the middle of the night, I received news that Fidel Castro, Cuban dictator for nearly five decades, finally died. I screamed.
I woke my mom and siblings out of bed and we rushed over to a Cuban landmark in Miami where thousands of people had already flooded the streets in pure celebration. Black, white, young and old, Cuban-Americans were banging pots and pans, waving Cuban flags and crying tears of happiness upon hearing about the death of an evil man who wrecked the lives of so many of our families.
There was no question in our minds that Castro's death was more of a reason to party than a Dolphins Superbowl win and New Years Eve combined. Until I checked Twitter...
I couldn't wrap my mind around the ignorant commentaries that spit in the face of every struggle my family overcame to make it to this day. Condoning Fidel Castro feels as offensive as telling a black person, "But slavery was great for the economy!" However, I knew that lack of education on the Cuban situation was the root of the problem. So here are a few reasons why you should let Cuban-Americans have their moment:
1. FIDEL CASTRO WAS A HOMEWRECKER
Communism looks awesome on paper. When Castro and his guerrilla warmongers took over in 1959, they promised equality and political liberty. To do so, he would "redistribute the wealth." Reality: he robbed citizens of their personal belongings and made it government property. This meant that there would be no more private property or business of any kind. From now on, Cubans would be 100% dependent on the government to provide them with food, employment, housing and education.
Our family, like many others, would not stand for this. They fled for the U.S., in hopes of shortly returning home to Cuba when Castro was overthrown. (My grandmother remembers being devastated to leave behind her high-school sweetheart when her parents moved her to Florida "for the summer") Her father, lovingly known as Papi, returned to Cuba to continue running his lucrative family business. Little did he know that by the time he got back, everything had been seized by the government.
Imagine: Papi, a started-from-the-bottom guy who spent a lifetime building up enough wealth to send his 9 children to private schools and summer camps...Now, stranded in a one-bedroom shack in Florida, working at the University of Florida cafeteria for $1/hour. Unfortunately, an even more dismal future was ahead for the family and friends left behind in Cuba.
2. FIDEL CASTRO WAS A MURDERER
Like my family, many Cuban-Americans have loved ones who were killed or imprisoned simply for disagreeing with Fidel Castro. For example, when my uncle attempted to escape from Cuba, he was thrown into a work camp where he was beaten with batons all day long; my uncle's leg had been broken so many times it never actually healed. At night, campers were banished to solitary confinement in small, dark dungeons, tormented by the sound of loud banging noises on repeat. The years that followed meant enduring murder, poverty, starvation and the complete demise of a beautiful, progressive island.
Here's a rough body count:
- 30,000 executed by firing squad
- 2,000 extra-judicial assassinations
- 5,000 deaths in prison due to beating by guards and denial of medical care
- 60,000 deaths while trying to escape Cuba by sea.
- 78,000 innocents may have died trying to flee the dictatorship.
- 5,300 are known to have lost their lives fighting communism in the Escambray Mountains (mostly peasant farmers and their children) and at the Bay of Pigs.
- 14,000 Cubans killed in Fidel's revolutionary adventures abroad, most notably his dispatch of 50,000 soldiers to Angola in the 1980s to help the Soviet-backed regime fight off the Unita insurgency.
3. RACE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT
America has a polarizing race issue, which was reflected in some of the responses to Castro's death on Friday night. "I see a lot of white Miami Cubans celebrating Castro's death...I want the opinion of a black Cuban!" Please realize that not everything has to do with race, particularly global affairs...but if you want to go there...
On paper, Castro abolished legalized discrimination. He met with Malcom X in the U.S. to discuss race (cue Kaepernick's controversial t-shirt). One author comments, "For many of us in Black America, Castro represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance." However, when your people are starving and dead on the street, what has truly been accomplished? Black, white, gay, straight...the Castro regime tortured everyone the same. Talk about equality!
And yes, a majority of Cuban exiles are "white". This makes sense given that "whites" likely had more resources to flee the country. Many underprivileged Afro-Cubans were sadly left behind to suffer at the hands of Castro. However, I urge you to read this thread for the opinion of a black Cuban for more insight.
4. ...NOR DO PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS
Many attempted to discredit the celebratory Cuban-Americans because they voted for Trump, which labels them as a racist burden to progressive society. Though I did not personally vote for Trump, I urge you to consider the reasons why many Cuban-Americans did:
- Trump represents capitalism. Obama represents socialism = the ideology that wrecked Cuba. People voted for Trump to not support Obama politics. For more perspective, here's Trump vs. Obama's reaction to Castro's death:
- Trump: “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”
- Obama: "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him...Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future."
- Many Cuban-Americans feel that Obama's move to lift the embargo made us look gullible and weak; Trump promised to renegotiate the deal to bring justice to Cuban-Americans.
- A common misconception is that Latinos wouldn't vote for Trump because of his commentaries about illegal Mexican immigrants. Though appalled by his ignorant remarks, many Cuban-Americans were able to overlook his commentaries because that is not their personal situation; all Latinos are not the same. Cubans are not "illegal immigrants"-- they are political refugees.
As a proud Miami Cuban-American, I ask for a moment of silence from the critics. The death of Fidel Castro symbolizes freedom and justice. In reality, Raul Castro (Fidel's brother) is currently in power and Cuban politics will remain the same for many more years. However, Fidel's death represents the hope for a brighter future in Cuba. Many of our family members died waiting for this day. Let us salsa dance in the streets, bongo-drumming to the rhythms of freedom, for all the lives lost at the hands of an evil tyrant.
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