From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:57:38


                          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their names not be published.)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 
post-Castro future. 
     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 
revolution's accomplishments. 
     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 
about that." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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