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Hurricane season is over: Cuban-American student recalls the ramifications of Castro’s life, death

December 7, 2016

Nov. 26, 2016 is a day that I will never forget.

It is a day that no Cuban-American will ever forget. It is a new day of hope for the future of Cuba and our people. Fidel Castro was a man who set out on a mission to save our country from being exploited by criminals and corruption. I hear the stories from Abuela, my grandmother, as if it were yesterday for her. Fidel brought a message of hope, a hope that Cuba would be known as a country that was more than just a tourist attraction. He carried with him a message that Cuba could rise up and meet its true potential and we would take our country in a better direction. We bought the message. Cubans were tired and wanted more, and it was more than we bargained for.

Slowly but surely, our people watched as our rights were stripped away one by one. We were no longer able to speak a certain way. We were no longer able to live a certain way. We were no longer able to eat a certain way. We were no longer able to think a certain way. We lost our freedoms, but we never lost our spirit.

My Abuela became increasingly heartbroken as she witnessed her home deteriorate, so she decided to leave. She was  among the last of the people to leave Cuba into the United States under a sponsorship program. My grandfather, like countless others, left as a political refugee.

Across social media this past week there has been a great deal of discussion about Fidel, and whether or not he was a good man. Fidel Castro indeed made Cuba into more than just a tourist trap and criminal haven as he got rid of the criminals. He created universal healthcare within the country and free education, even on through the collegiate level, but is this enough to exonerate him from the massacre of those who didn’t agree with his message? Are we to turn a blind eye to the crimes against humanity since he gave his people healthcare? There is more to a leader than what resources they can provide; it also important how they lead the people that they are responsible for. This is a lesson that Cubans learned the hard way.

Over the years, we managed to keep in contact with our family in Cuba. The government pays careful attention to information that comes into Cuba and information that leaves Cuba. Abuela has told me countless stories about letters she received with entire sentences crossed out with marker and phone calls cut short, usually before five minutes. When something was amiss, they snuck in phrases such as “There’s a hurricane coming” in either a letter or phone call to warn us that something was going on. Usually it was political.

We oftentimes try to send things like medication and vitamins in hopes that they  will not be confiscated. We do not have guarantees and it can get expensive,  but we try. We won’t leave them behind. They always support us and cheer us on from afar, and constantly tell us that they hope one day to meet my parents, my brothers and I.

My hope is that, absent Fidel, Cuba can freely grow strong; that my people will have a chance to be free, and that one day I can freely walk in a place that has molded me from afar.

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