A personal manifesto
What is Cuba? Growing up in a classically divided Cuban-American family in Miami, it was many, sometimes contradictory things. The Cuban Diaspora, like its varied international and historical cousins, brought a wide variety of divergent social and economic realities to America. Early pre-Castro revolution economic immigrants, themselves the grand children of Galician and Basque economic immigrants, shared the streets of sleepy little Miami with Cuban “nobility” with long pedigrees and many generations of membership in the “big five” Havana country clubs. My own family experience included, on one side, a rarely spoken of Uncle who had been tortured to death by Batista’s secret police for student activism at the University of Havana, as well as on the other side, an aloof grand-father who owned sugar refineries in the Oriente province of Cuba and later, sensing a change in the political winds, in Central Florida.
Cubans from different social and economic backgrounds didn’t necessarily see things in the stereotypical ways that you would expect. The economic immigrants whose family had stayed in Cuba and joined the communist party to gain the educational and social benefits of Castro’s revolution would wax nostalgic about the economic vitality and diversity of 1930’s Batista era Havana. The wealthy, those with the economic means to do so, had sent their children to boarding schools and colleges in America. All Cubans, either of the so-called “left” (Democrats!) or right (Republicans!) spoke proudly of the fact that the Cuba they came from was closer to the frequently maligned United States in economic development and social sophistication than the rest of Latin-America. The Cuban experience communicated to me by my family was as contradictory as that of most European immigrant groups that had journeyed to America with the added uniquely cold-war nuances that caused Cubans to despise that much beloved icon of modernity John F. Kennedy for his “treacherous” failure to invade Cuba on the heals of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.