por Rogelio Madrazo Serra with Tara Spinelli

On C-SPAN, I recently learned about two books on Cuba written by authors who I don’t think are Castro sympathizers. Anthony DePalma’s book is The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times. DePalma is a member of the editorial board of the NY Times who is married to a woman from Cuba. The other is Revolution and Reaction in Cuba, 1933-1960: A Political Sociology from Machado to Castro by Samuel Farber. Farber is a Cuban Jew from Marianao, professor of political science at Brooklyn College, and a self-described Liberal.

DePalma’s book is about the influence of the infamous Herbert Mathews, editorial staff member of the Times, who in 1956 made a hero of the Tyrant then ended his days ostracized by the newspaper, forbidden from publishing anything after Castro began executing people in 1959.

Farber’s book is about his thesis that Castro was pushed into the arms of the Soviets by the Eisenhower administration. He asserts that, in his opinion, the Tyrant was not a Communist. He presents the credentials of Castro’s apprentice Raul as a member of the Communist Youth, and does the same with the murderer Guevara. Farber concludes that the Cubans did not object to Castro’s betrayal of his promises of a free, honest society. Instead, he says it was the Agrarian Reform that triggered the opposition in Cuba and in the USA. In other words, we were people of no principles who only came to life to protect our vested interests.

In the course of the C-SPAN discussions, both authors referred to the Miami Cubans as extreme right-wing, with the connotation that there is something evil about Cubans and Miami. Somehow I felt implicated, too, although I have never had the privilege of living in the city my people built.

While I feel it has become customary to denigrate my fellow émigrés while glossing over the crimes of the Tyrant and his court, maybe I need to examine my own conscience. Maybe I need to confess my sins and be reborn as a new kind of person more pleasing to those who seem to have nothing good to say about the most industrious, most successful immigrants in the history of this nation who have also never ceased to work for the liberation of their motherland.

So please help me find out where I might have gone wrong. This is my history:

My paternal grandfather was a welder in the Habana harbor all his life. He was born in Galveston, TX to poor Spanish immigrants. Could this be my problem?

My maternal grandfather ended his days as a machinist in the boat used to transport the harbor pilots to and from the ships that arrived at the Habana Harbor. Maybe his contact with foreign vessels ruined my thinking?

My father was the first college graduate in the family. He held two jobs as a chemistry professor and a tech-salesman of farm equipment in a very successful business owned by his older brother. He was in jail the day I was born for his active opposition to the Batista regime in the 1930s.

My mother graduated from a teacher’s college and taught in the public school system. She also helped her mother run a small business related to the private health system that was very effective in providing quality care for all.

Could it be that because my parents worked long hours to provide for me that I became a little bourgeois?

I was born in Regla, a small town on the harbor right across from the city of Habana. My playmates were the son of a tailor, the son of a dentist, two sons of policemen, the son of the candy vendor at one of the two movie houses in town, and the son of a shoemaker (a first generation Cuban of Italian descent). Could it be that this collection of capitalists deformed my thinking?

I attended grade school at Lancha Academy in the nearby town of Guanabacoa where my mother had also been a student. In fifth grade, Mr. Lancha sold the school to a man named Leonte, a friend of my father’s, and his wife Lolita. I felt betrayed and refused to return to school. The following year, I was enrolled at a Catholic school, Los Escolapios, in the same town, where I went through my second year of high school.

We moved form my hometown and I transferred to Baldor School, owned by the man who wrote the math and algebra books that were used throughout the Americas for decades. This is the man who, on the morning of March 10, 1952, the day Batista destroyed the democratic process, told me as he stood in front of the school, “Son, I do not know what is happening, but if what I hear is true, you have lost your motherland.”

Could it be that the opposition of this man to the military coup recognized three days later by the USA obfuscated my view of history and today I am a right-winger because of it?

I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Villanueva, which was administered by Augustinian priests. It was here that in a discussion about colonization, I expressed the opinion that, given a choice, I would rather be a descendant of the Indian chief Hatuey than Diego Velazquez, the first Spaniard ruler of Cuba. Father Gonzalez may have been right, maybe my upbringing was no good.

While at the University, I was jailed by the Batista police, given a beating, indicted, released on my own recognizance, and later found not guilty by an anti-Batista judge. My crime had been to help organize a general strike to show contempt for the Batista dictatorship. You can see how I was already turning into an extreme right-winger.

I graduated from Villanueva in 1958 and went to work for the US Rubber Company located in Loma de Tierra, just outside Habana. As a US company, maybe it offered the possibility of contaminating my mind. But upon the Tyrant coming to power, I resigned and went to work for the Regime in the largest engineering department the Cuban government had ever had. Maybe I had escaped all the bad influences I had been seeped in to date?

When this government institution was shut down, I chose to work at a synthetic fertilizer plant that was operated by the government in the Matanzas Province. Incompetent management was bringing the plant down, the only one of its kind in Cuba and of vital importance in an agricultural country. When the secretary general of the union and I tried to communicate to responsible parties the magnitude of the problem at the plant, we were told that there was no need, and that we had now singled ourselves out as troublemakers.

I decided that instead of becoming a martyr, I would become a refugee. I came to the USA with a tourist visa, a decision that haunts me to this date.

When I left Cuba on July 21, 1960 at approximately 3pm, I left behind a wife and two children (who would later join me), a 1953 Chevy that burnt more oil than gas, a few pieces of furniture, and all wedding gifts. The only thing I held was the conviction that I would someday return.

In the almost 46 years that I have been gone, I have done nothing to taint the reputation of my fellow émigrés, and have tried to contribute to the downfall of the Tyrant in every way possible.

Now you know the story. Please help me understand how I have become a despicable animal known in the media as a Miami-Cuban. I want to be good!

APRIL 2006

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