Friday, October 27, 2006

The Shadow

I was born in the United States, in Philadelphia, the cradle of freedom to be precise. I have enjoyed the fruits of liberty my entire life. I have never had to live under a repressive regime. I have never had to live under a dictator of any stripe. Yet there is man, who I have never met, who I have never come within 100 miles of, who has had a profound influence in my life. His name is fidel castro ruz.

I was reflecting on this the last couple of days and I was going to write about it when I saw Ziva's excellent post today at Babalublog. The fact is that fidel has power over people well outside of Cuba. Like a shadow he looms over our lives. He has changed the destiny of literally millions of people. Millions in Cuba live in conditions much worse than they would have if fidel castro ruz had never been born. But by twists of fate some (those that left and their children and grandchildren) have prospered, perhaps more than if they had stayed. But the fact is that nobody gave castro that power to change lives. He took it for himself.

When I was 7 years old I asked my father who he was going to vote for. He told me Gerald Ford. I asked him why and he said because the Republicans are anti-communist. Later when I was about 10, I built a model of a Soviet tank. I showed it to my dad and he frowned. I asked why he didn't like it, after all the Soviets were our allies in World War II. He said because the Soviets were communists. It was events like these that shaped my understanding of the world as a child and led me to investigate this ideology my father hated so intensely. When I turned 18, I registered to vote as a Republican and registered for the draft the same day.

One day while I was in college, I saw a flyer for a presentation about Cuba. I knew this was going to be some sort of propaganda event but I was curious. Sure enough there were about 10 people in the auditorium and they screened a propaganda film that extolled the virtues of the worker's paradise. During the Q&A I posed some very pointed questions and was dismissed as being young and naive. When I explained that an open discussion about politics, like the one we were having, could not be had in Cuba, I was yelled at and spit upon. A woman literally tried to spit on me. She missed. But I understood what my father had been trying to teach me about communism.

So I have fidel to thank for being an American, a capitalist, and a Republican. Perhaps even for my life, I don't know if I would have even ever been born if my parents hadn't been forced to flee Cuba at ages 19 and 17 respectively.

Part of me will always be the child of exiles. Even if democracy is restored to Cuba. It has shaped my life from my earliest days of conscious thought right through today. The shadow will always be there.


Marta said...

Fabulous post, Henry.
I'll bet your parents are proud of you. I know I would be.
(I like how you diminished fc by not capitalizing his name)

Gonzalo Fernandez said...

I was having a nice lunch at a Cuban restaurant in Wake Forest, a small town in North Carolina. I started reflecting on how we came back to life when we arrived to Madrid, out of the dreadful city of La Habana in 1966. We had wasted six years under Castro's imposed terror. We started with a 1,000 pesetas note (US$20)that a friend gave me at Barajas airport. Several friends sent us money to cover living expenses until we got jobs. I was hired as Finance Director of an American company in Spain, and later on, my wife landed a job as an accountant for a Spanish company. Two years later we came to the United States. I was hired by a top Fortune 500 company. They sent us to Buenos Aires, back to headquarters in New York, then to Puerto Rico and finally to Raleigh, NC, as VP and CFO. My wife became a finance manager of another company. Our son is a medicine doctor, one of our twins daughters is a lawyer, the other is a mechanical engineer and has an MBA. The doctor is chairman and medical director of a radiology group, the twins are vice-presidents in their respective companies. In a free environment, we worked hard, opportunities came, and we did and are doing well.
In the evening I enter your blog site and, after reading your article, I can also say that my wife and I are thankful for being American citizens, capitalists, and Republicans.

Gonzalo Fernandez said...

One remark.

I made a grammar error. "I enter your blog" should have been "I entered..."

I am prone to these errors; I have a thick Spanish accent. I am accepted in the US based on my professional know-how and these shortcomings are not an impediment to my business or persoanl life among the American born persons I deal with.