From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
YOUNGER GENERATION OF CUBAN EXILES HOPES FOR HEALING
05 May 1996 12:57:38
95122 YOUNGER GENERATION OF CUBAN EXILES HOPES FOR HEALING
by Alexa Smith
(Editor's note: Both persons interviewed in this article requested that
their names not be published.)
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Instead of dwelling on old guilts and angers, some among
the younger generation of Cuban exiles say it is time to dream new dreams
and seek new visions about what it means to be Cuban now and in the
No more name-calling. No more arguments about who are the communists
and who are self-defined "real Cubans." No more hashing over who did what
almost 40 years ago or who is really a traitor.
Young exiles say such recriminations only mire an older generation of
expatriate Cubans in a never-ending cycle of fear, guilt and anger --
ignoring all the brokenness and heartache that continues to keep Cuban
people estranged from each other.
"What we have in common is suffering and pain," says a Cuban-born male
Roman Catholic theologian, who acknowledges that suffering is different for
Cubans who fled the revolution than for those who stayed in Cuba. But
suffering is still suffering. "That could be the beginning, " he said, "
... a bond that is the basis for healing our wounds.
"There are still, obviously, a lot of raw wounds that need to be
tended and healed. And what we have to realize is that all of us, in one
form or another, suffered greatly in the last 35 years."
He says healing means listening more and blaming less. "It really
means creating community in a community that has been seriously divided,"
he went on. "It's going to take generosity of spirit and an attempt to
really try to understand the other. ...
"Both sides," he said, "feel betrayed."
Cubans who fled the 1959 revolution and those who stayed also feel
guilt -- an admission that comes hard. Some believed in the revolution and
stayed only to see it flounder; others fled the country and wondered later
what might have happened had they stayed and resisted.
"All the bravado. All the acrimonious diatribes ... in a sense it's a
way of hiding guilt," says a female Roman Catholic theologian. Denouncing
Castro's Cuba helps some who left feel less guilt and helps them feel as
though they are doing something now. "And all those years of deprivation
and sacrifice result[ed] in ... very little," she says, for those who
"Those who have a rootedness in the island have an immediate knowledge
of the situation that we who have left have only in an adjunct way. ... On
the other hand, we who established ourselves in the U.S. made a good
living. And we have a responsiblity to share that wealth ... with the
entire community, with those who stayed behind," said the male theologian,
who says he barely remembers his early years on the island but well
remembers his family's hurried departure by plane to the U.S.
More than half of the Cubans now in Cuba were born after the
revolution. Much of the population is black. Those realities reflect a
Cuba very different from the island the exiles fled, according to the
female theologian. Even music now is different from traditional rhythms
Cubans here remember. "[Reconstrustion] almost means reinventing what the
Cuban nation is about," she reflected.
It definitely means being sensitive to fears Cubans have that, should
the government change and Cubans from the States return, the former
expatriate community would have enough money to buy businesses, homes and
fields right out from under current inhabitants, she says.
And, she says, it may mean offering forgiveness for perceived or real
past wrongs before there is any repentance.
Both theologians believe few exiled Cubans will move back permanently.
For while many Cubans stayed in Miami motels at first -- considering
themselves refugees and not U.S. residents -- their children consider the
U.S. home despite emotional ties to the island.
"It's similar to being an orphan who knows he or she has parents but
knows very little about them and who is longing to meet and get to know
them even though one doesn't have a lot of memories or no memories," he
said. "It's a deep sense of bonding that doesn't have flesh and bones to
" ... You now have your own family. You live in a different context.
But there is still a part of you who wants to know about it," he said.
The female theologian agreed, saying she was a teenager who was
sympathetic to the revolution in the late '50s but not supportive of
Castro. She believes one of the problems facing Cubans in the U.S. is a
lack of openness within the community itself to change and grow -- it
refuses to forgive past mistakes or even to repent of its own wrongs.
Those wrongs, she says, include violence or threats of violence against
those who refuse to condemn a Cuba run by Castro while ignoring any of the
The irony is that control by fear is what those same expatriates claim
to hate about the communist system: it is the reason they would say they
fled Cuba in the first place, she says.
"Forty years wandering in the desert of the Jewish people. ... You
have to wonder if a people who have lived in exile can go back and become
leaders of a country they left a long time ago. Or if a another generation
has to be born," the woman said, growing quieter. "I've often wondered
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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