In the past, I penned an op-ed addressing the question that my mother asked me whether I would accompany her on a trip to Communist Cuba to visit her mother. More recently, I’ve been asked for my opinion on the wisdom of young Cuban-Americans willing to do the same. This is a complex issue that calls for a nuanced analysis.
I’ll proceed with a discussion of the two factions that make up this group (the “Cuba Si/Yankee No Crowd” and the “Cuba Si/Castro No Crowd”), and end up with a description of those Cuban-Americans belonging to the “Cuba-Libre” generation who are unwilling to travel to Cuba as long as the Communists are in power.
I’ve heard from a Cuban-American couple who visited Communist Cuba lately that there is a new vibe in Cuban society. They assigned a positive connotation to this vibe, but I think differently.
CUBA SI/YANKEE NO CROWD
These youngsters just don’t believe the stories that their parents and grandparents told them about the hardships and humiliations that they suffered at the hands of Cuban Government officials. Their solidarity is with the Cuban Regime, and most look at the United States Government as the Evil Empire.
They insist on doing the complete opposite of what their elders told them by vacationing in Cuba. Their political orientation tends to be, in the majority, a leftist/liberal/socialist one. They view capitalism with suspicion, while deifying socialist policies. Their heroes are most likely Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Bernie Sanders. But they are not very genuine with their convictions. They enjoy the material comforts of life in the United States, as well as the rights protected by our Constitution – one of which is freedom of speech that offers them all kinds of guarantees to criticize the prevailing economic system of their country without fear of retribution. These are the Dreamers who view socialist societies with respect and admiration, but who forget to remove their blindfolds to the abuses that these governments have implemented consistently in the past to keep themselves in power.
They refuse to meet with the Cuban human-rights dissidents because they view them as moles of the U.S. Government. While the latter allegation is true in some instances, isn’t it true that Cuban Government officials receive monetary assistance from Russia, the former Soviet Union, China, and a myriad of other countries who want nothing more than the demise of the United States? The AFL-CIO provided much needed financial assistance to the Solidarity labor-union and its chairman Lech Walesa, which culminated in the demise of the communist regime in Poland. The United States Government has an excellent track record of providing all types of assistance to rebels throughout the world who are willing to fight to bring freedom and democracy to their homelands. So, there is nothing unusual about the U.S. Government offering a helping hand to the Cuban human-rights dissidents.
This generation of Cuban-Americans would do well to move to Cuba and experience first-hand what life is like under this type of government. I guarantee you that it won’t be long before they return to the United States as fanatical converts to the virtues of capitalism – just like former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver did after a self-imposed exile to Cuba and his subsequent return to the United States as a Republican.
While these Cuban-Americans are under the hallucinogenic influence of their mental delusions, they are not to be taken seriously. They make up the gang of the “Cuba Si/Yankee No” deplorables.
CUBA SI/CASTRO NO CROWD
These youngsters want to validate their relatives’ stories about life in the Cuban Gulag by traveling to Cuba. Their sympathies are with the Cuban people, and not with the Cuban Government. They are what I refer to as the Cuban-American Doubting Thomases – a reference to the Apostle Thomas from the Bible who refused to believe that Christ had risen until he had seen Him for himself. They mean well, but they want to rely on facts and the truth.
“In search of the truth.” This is really important.
To find the truth in Communist Cuba, it will be an uphill battle. The Cuban Government masquerades reality with a very efficient propaganda and disinformation apparatus. Even when you elicit an acknowledgment about the horrible living conditions, they blame them all on the U.S. embargo. But this is precisely why these Cuban-Americans have to be on full alert. It is counterintuitive to blame the U.S. embargo for all of Cuba’s vicissitudes when the Cuban Government has traded with a myriad of countries in the past. Moreover, one must stop to think why did the living conditions of most Cubans not improve significantly during the time when Cuba received generous subsidies from the Soviet Union? One can find the answer in one of the basic tenets of communist doctrine: the Party is immortal. In other words, communists place the superiority of the Communist ideology over the bare necessities of the proletarians. Needless to say, the guardians of the Communist ideology are the members of the Communist Party – who are transformed overnight into the new bourgeoisie.
To find the truth that they were looking for, these Cuban-Americans will have to stay away from the Mojito and Cohiba-cigar tours. They’ll have to leave behind their tour guides — whose main goal is to remain in the good graces of Cuban Government officials by exposing the American tourists to a Disney-World version of life in Communist Cuba. Rather than limiting their trips to the well-known tourist spots in La Habana – like the Tropicana Night Club, La Bodeguita del Medio, El Floridita (one of the favorite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway) and the opulent Miramar residential area (where many of the Cuban Government apparatchiks live now) – they would need to explore a typical Cuban neighborhood on their own.
What they will find is that the average monthly salary of a Cuban worker is a mere $30 – after over sixty years of empty promises. They will find that most buildings and households are crumbling away, and many have collapsed into piles of rubble. They will be surprised at the light traffic at all hours on the streets – primarily because the majority of cars are mostly pre-1959 American models with diesel engines from Russian cars. They will be shocked at the deplorable condition of Havana streets, which are full of potholes because of their systematic lack of maintenance. They will be blown away to see not only old cars on the major roadways, but people walking — using bicycles, horse drawn carts, oxen drawn carts, old buses and flatbed trucks used as buses. They will learn about the long waits for specialty care at medical facilities, and about the need to supplement the meager salaries of physicians with gifts. They will find a people bereft of consumer goods, nutritious foods, meaningful jobs, and adequate housing and transportation. They will find that despite years of communist indoctrination, most Cubans love Americans and anything that is U.S. made.
Upon their return to the United States, they will venerate the words of their parents and grandparents. They will ban from their households all access to the fake-news purveyors. They will realize that if the mainstream media outlets have propagated so many lies about Communist Cuba, they must be guilty of misinforming Americans about the latest news in their country. They will become the new freedom fighters for a Cuba Libre and for Making America Great Again.
The motto for these Cuban-American is: “we’ve seen the devastation in Communist Cuba; we believe what our parents and grandparents told us about life in this hellhole.”
THE CUBA LIBRE CROWD
These are the Cuban Americans who refuse to set foot on Cuban soil until there is a government that is truly “of the people, by the people, for the people.” They believe the stories that their parents and grandparents told them. They’ve seen what they gave up in their native homeland so that their children and grandchildren could thrive in a democratic country and taste and breathe freedom everywhere. They are convinced that it was their close-knit family ties that allowed them to survive the hardships of exile in a country with a different culture and language. They’ve seen the failure in every country where socialism has been tried. They are committed to ensure that the Cuban Government compensates their families for the illegal confiscation of their private properties after the Cuban Revolution. They are determined to vacation in countries where their dollars will be used to better the lots of the population rather than to enrich those who oppress them. They belong to the generation of highly educated Cuban-Americans like Mauricio Claver-Carone — whom President Trump has named Senior Director of the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere and where he’ll be in a position to enforce a hardline foreign policy on Communist Cuba. They belong to the generation of leaders like U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who repeatedly advocate in the halls of the U.S. Senate for policies that call for the restoration of freedom and democracy to their parents’ homeland. This is the generation with luminaries in high places in the public and private sectors in the United States, who speak on behalf of the voiceless in Cuba who are not allowed to expose the crimes and misdemeanors of their government.
They are the ones who will argue with those Cuban-Americans who insist on vacationing in Communist Cuba. They are the ones who invoke the example set by Jews of all age-brackets to protect Israel at all costs because they realize that another Holocaust is just one step away from reality if they don’t stick together.
They are the ones that Cuban National Hero José Martí would call upon to help in the reconstruction of a Cuba Libre.
Cuba nowadays is a country of sorrow. A failed state. A country plundered by years of leftist opportunists. A country where dreams for a better life are pure fiction.
But to create a Cuba Libre requires the Cubans to fight for their freedom. They cannot expect the U.S. military to do the fighting for them. They have to rely on the same ingenuity that has allowed them to survive all these years of shortages of basic necessities.
They will not find their answer in Miami, but in the lyrics of the Cuban national anthem “morir por la patria es vivir” (to die for the homeland is to live with honor).
And Cuban-Americans and Cubans living in other democratic countries will have to help the insurgency with their pocket books. And they will have to invest in the reconstruction that will follow after a win-win economic model for all groups has been developed. . Yes, there is a different vibe circulating in Communist Cuba. And it’s a vibe that speaks of libertad (freedom)!