Arizona is a beautiful state, home to one of my Cuban aunts and my uncle, but the Cuba of the desert, thousands of miles both from Havana and Little Havana in Miami, it is not.
So it was perplexing and almost infuriating to learn that Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of murdered Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, had been told by American officials that she and a dozen family members set to leave Cuba on June 9 would settle not in the Miami area -- where she has numerous friends and supporters ready to help -- but in Arizona.
Why Arizona? I don't know and the American government is not talking. Some may argue the Obama administration is doing a favor for the Castro regime, getting Tamayo as far away from Cuba and Miami as possible, but that borders on the ridiculous -- especially when considering the numerous political prisoners released last year and this who have been allowed to settle in Florida after first taking exile in Spain and elsewhere overseas.
It is tempting to imagine what role in the opposition-in-exile Tamayo, who has inspired many with her courage and commitment to her son's legacy, will play once she is out of Cuba. That is why some saw the news of her impending move to Arizona, which will include a layover at the Miami airport, as a victory for the Castro regime.
This sounded like another indignity, on top of all the sacrifice and suffering she has endured since her son was imprisoned in 2003, during his 86-day hunger and since his death. Whether because of its innate cruelty or its fear of this old woman and what she represents, the Castro dictatorship has targeted Sra Tamayo with some of its most vicious repression -- including limiting when and how she can mourn her son at his grave.
Which is why what matters most is not that Tamayo will settle in Arizona and not Miami, but that she will soon be able to escape, finally, the island for some place safe -- and with her son's ashes, too. Cuban restaurants and Cubans may be a rarity in Arizona, but what she and her family will find in ample supply -- even in a state with a demonstrated hostility to Hispanic immigrants -- is freedom.
A freedom that certainly one day will allow her to move to Miami or anywhere she wants.
And to properly mourn and remember and honor her murdered son.
Here is a video tribute I produced last year to honor Orlando Zapata Tamayo and his mother: