As we wait for Fidel Castro to either die or make a miraculous recovery or whatever, Cubans in exile prepare to celebrate and to remember. More than five years ago, when again rumors were that he was near death, I wrote the following about what his death and what it would mean. Today, it still holds true.
From Aug. 24, 2007:
Rumors of Fidel Castro's demise — or perhaps more accurately, that his demise was about to be announced — may have been just that. Tonight, it does not appear I will be driving to Miami to witness, and participate in, la madre de las fiestas.
Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. I'll be there.
Moreso than on other occasions during the past year when we heard that maybe, just maybe, that Castro was dead, I allowed myself to get excited. I checked out an early report at Babalú and blurted out, "He's dead!" I then told my colleagues at the newspaper what I was talking about, and then began listing contingencies for how we would "localize" the story for our readers. (There are plenty of Cubans in the Tampa Bay region, and just before this past Christmas, a dozen of so Cuban refugees landed on a beach about 20 minutes from my house.)
I then began making my checklist for the trip to Miami:
Cuba Libres for everyone!|—————|
Despite my fist-pumping and chest-thumping this afternoon, I am uneasy about "celebrating" a man's death, even if he is an evil like Fidel Castro. But I also know that Cuba cannot be free — or more accurately, the nation cannot start on the path to freedom — until he is gone. His dictatorship remains, but without him, it cannot survive. Soon after his death is announced, we will see the real cracks begin to show.
But answering difficult political questions like that can wait.
Right now, there are more important things to remember.
Now that my initial euphoria has been tempered by the facts we know, which aren't always the facts we hope for, I find my mind flooded with so many thoughts, so many memories. I keep thinking about those for whom Castro's death — or more precisely, the announcement of his death — will mean so much.
The political prisoners. The ones I have been privileged to write about here, and many more.
Independent journalists like Aini Martín Valero and the amazing Guillermo Fariñas. The stories Castro's death will allow them to tell about the past 50 years — especially after democracy and liberty finally prevail on the island — may shock the world.
Shame on those who will be surprised by those stories. You obviously haven't been paying attention.
I think about the balseros, those who have made it to our shores, and how many long to return to their homes. And the too many who have died.
I remember the Brothers to the Rescue.
I remember all my fellow Cubans waiting for freedom.|—————|
My thoughts are also very personal.
In between figuring out how we would cover the story, and estimating how drunk I would get tonight, I called my father to make sure he had heard the news — or at least, the latest rumors. Hopefully, it would not cause him too much of a shock as he recovers from his heart surgery.
I wish I could have called his father, my grandfather, Abaray, from whom I learned so much about being Cuban — even if I didn't realize it at the time. When I finally make it to Miami, I'll be sure to visit his grave to share a drink.
I also thought about Abaray's brother, Rolando "El Tigre" Masferrer. I don't remember ever meeting the man, but I imagine he would have quite a bit to say about the death of his old adversary.
I also remember by grandmother, Abadela, who passed away just last fall. I'm sure she will be watching the news on the big HDTV in the sky.
I thought about my parents, and their brothers and sisters. How they fled Cuba as infants, toddlers and teenagers — my mother is the second-oldest of 10 — with nothing. And how they have taken the liberty and the opportunity they found here to build incredible lives. My sister, and my cousins have done the same.
It is a common story among Cuban Americans, and one I hope caused Castro frequent sharp pains in his gut. How in America his hated gusanos worked for and found freedom and prosperity — two things that have eluded Cubans on the island ever since Castro entered Havana in 1959.
And I thought about what I can do, what I will do, to help bring about the promise that Castro's death, whether it is announced later tonight or tomorrow, offers Cuba. The promise, the possibility, the inevitability of justice, healing and liberty. Those are thoughts I hope never leave me.