Why do Cuban-Americans belonging to the historic exile – those who left Cuba between 1959 and 1979 – still worry about Cuban affairs?
If you were to ask these Cuban-Americans, who left their homeland thirty to fifty years ago, whether they would return to live in a post-Castro Cuba having a democratically elected government, the majority would respond that they would go back only on vacation and to see the house where they and their parents were born in. Their children and grandchildren were born in the United States, and they have embraced the American way of life. So, it makes no sense for these Cuban-Americans to remain so engaged with the daily happenings of a Caribbean island 90 miles off the coast of Florida. But, before we can fully understand the answer to this question, we need to analyze the differences between these Cuban-Americans and other Cubans.
First, let’s look at the Cubans still living in Cuba. They share almost none of the core values held by Cuban-Americans from the historic exile. These Cubans operate through the “what’s in it for me” mentality. They even have a word for it – “resolver” or “to get by.” In plain English, it means doing whatever is necessary to enjoy the bare necessities of life. Many parents have forced their sons and daughters into prostitution to bring added revenue to their household. The sanctity of the family has been lost. Employees feel justified in stealing goods and food items from their employers to sell them in the black market at inflated prices and increase their take-home pay. Loyalty to employers is not in these employees’ vocabulary. As for the work ethic, it leaves a lot to be desired. Considering that the Government owns all means of production and there are no incentives for increased productivity, everyone puts out just the bare minimum. Even the Spanish spoken by these Cubans is different. “Jinetera” is the equivalent of “prostitute.” “Fula” means “dollar,” while “Yuma” is used to refer to the “United States.” A common saying in Cuba is “quiero un papirriqui con guaniquiqui, que pase de los treinta y no llegue a los cuarenta” to mean “I want a rich man over thirty who is not yet forty.” And even more bizarre, Christian names that were typically used in pre-1959 Cuba have been replaced by made-up names like Yaricel, Yuri, Yania, and Julimar. My favorite one is Usnavy – made up by a Cuban who saw a U.S. Navy ship near the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Ergo, “U.S. Navy” became “Usnavy.” As you can see, there is very little that these Cubans have in common with the Cuban-Americans from the historic exile.
Then, there are the Cuban-Americans who left Cuba from 1980 (during the Mariel Boatlift) to the present. The majority in this group have brought the “resolver” mentality that they learned in Cuba to the U.S. Even though they get special privileges from the U.S. Government for being considered “political refugees” by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, they want to go back to Cuba shortly after landing in U.S. shores. When others try to reason with them that if they return to Cuba, the argument that their lives would be in danger defies reason, they lose the ability to argue in a logical fashion. When you explain the unfairness of granting special privileges to these Cubans (who, for all intent and purposes, are immigrants for economic reasons) and denying them to other immigrants who are similarly situated (like the Haitians and Mexicans), it’s like you are talking in a foreign language. When they are told that their frequent trips to Cuba may result in the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act, most tell you that they don’t care. Once again, you see the “what’s in it for me” mentality at play. Naturally, you do find exceptions of some who have embraced the values of the Cuban-Americans from the historic exile. One such example is musician Amaury Gutiérrez who makes a living by singing songs to remind the world of those Cubans who are not afraid to die to bring a better tomorrow for Cubans of every creed and race — like the late Lady in White Laura Pollán. Moreover, even when these Cuban-Americans set up their own businesses, they have no idea about the most basic rules of the market place — which ultimately forces them to declare bankruptcy or their business to fail. Following is a case in point. I had taken my laptop to a computer repair shop in the Tampa Bay Area. I got to the shop before it opened, and I parked in the parking space right in front of the shop. When the owner showed up, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was a fellow Cuban-American. But he ruined the pleasant introduction by what followed. He remarked that I had parked my car in the parking space that he liked to park at, and that he was tempted to tell me to move my car to another parking space. Really?!!! He obviously had no clue that in any business, the customer is always the king or queen. I let him fix my laptop, but I never went back to his shop again, and I never recommended him to any of my friends.
Turning over to the next group, you have the black sheep within the Cuban-Americans from the historic exile. Most in these mutations are highly educated and have attained high level of prosperity. They lobby the U.S. Congress and the White House to lift the U.S. Embargo against Cuba. Of course, they pay scant attention to the argument that the U.S. embargo has been highly effective in preventing the Cuban authorities from using the $975 billion (the cost of the U.S. embargo according to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at a speech given on September 27, 2011, at the United Nations General Assembly) to bankroll terrorist groups throughout the world. These Cuban-Americans are not any different from American businessmen who have turned over company secrets to China in return for a quick profit – regardless of the damage done to current and future U.S. jobs. These Cuban-Americans are fully aware that doing business with the Cuban Government will not ameliorate the lives of average Cubans. Yet, they are willing to go ahead with their business transactions because their religion is the profit margin. They hold no loyalty to any country. Their sole concern is how to get richer.
Finally, we turn to the question that I posed at the beginning of this op-ed – “why do Cuban-Americans from the historic exile still worry about Cuban affairs?” Like the saying goes, they have no dog in this fight. And, yet, they are fully engaged on issues related to Cuba. They do it to lend a helping hand to those valiant human rights activists who risk their lives to restore freedom and democracy to their homeland. I’m talking about brave souls like Dr. Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata, Guillermo Fariñas, Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez), and Lady in White Laura Pollán. They do it to give a voice to the voiceless who dream of having a better future for themselves and their children, but who lack the valor of the previously named heroes. They do it to honor the memory of their parents who gave up everything so that they could live in the land of freedom and opportunity. They do it because they know that it is not right for parents to have to force their children into prostitution to bring food to their tables.
They do it because anyone trying to reconcile all these Cuban groups with each other have to be aware of the glaring differences among them. Embracing a cookie-cutter approach would bring out failure.
They do it because “Cubanisimo” has a special meaning to them – that of country, duty, and honor. They do it because they want to safeguard the United States from terrorist attacks. They do it because they love the country that sheltered them from the gates of hell. They do it because they want to yell their lungs out and proclaim the patriotic creed that “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land — God Bless the U.S.A.”
These Cuban-Americans of the historic exile stand during the playing of the national anthem and salute the U.S. flag. They are the enemies of any ideology or organization or group that is grounded in Marxist principles. If they kneel, they only do so to their God!