Growing up American, with a Cuban Heart
By Luis F. Brizuela Cruz
Last week, on the same day, I participated in two interviews that initially had very similar purposes, but which ended up adapting, as it should be, to the innate preferences of those involved and also to certain variances required by the social fabric of our times. Alina, who I had the honor of meeting that morning, is working on her university thesis, in which she is incorporating stories and interviews with fellow Cubans who, the same as her, arrived as exiles during the first decades of the Castro tyranny. In the afternoon session I was visited at my place of business by Christian, a Peruvian friend of mine who works as a journalist, regularly interviewing business owners, athletes, politicians, artists and other outstanding members of our Hispanic community in the north east of the United States.
Alina has a double mission. She has returned to school –after she and her husband have raised two children- intended to enhance her academic portfolio and has chosen as the theme of her thesis to reveal to the world the testimonies of Cuban exiles that have lived most of their lives in the United States. The subjects of her interviews include some protagonists of the Cuban exodus known as “Peter Pan”, in the early nineteen sixties, when hundreds of parents opted to send their children, unaccompanied, into the custody of relatives or catholic charities in the United States, to prevent their indoctrination at the hands of the communist Cuban regime which had taken over the largest Caribbean island. Also included in her interviews are other Cubans who came to the United States through alternate venues such as the “Camarioca Boatlift”, the “Freedom Flights”, “Spain”, and the “Mariel Boatlift”, or as survivors of the many dangerous voyages by boats and rafts across the Florida Straits.
It was not until midway through our interview that I revealed to Alina my literary passion and I suggested for her to use my blog as a way of reinforcing some of the topics that she and I had covered during our animated dialog. It was very evident that Alina had genuine patriotic feelings vested in her undertaking, way past the academic endeavor at hand. Alina went on to comment that she was hopeful that her work would serve as an illustration for those unaware of the Cuban process, particularly at this crucial junction, when the United States are engaged in reconciliatory negotiations with the incongruent and inflexible six-decade long dictatorship of the island nation. Some of my stories like “Schools in The Farms” and “Autobiography of a Poljot Watch” –the latter directly linked to our dreadful last night in the “fishbowl” in Varadero, awaiting for the next morning flight to freedom- appeared to serve as reaffirmation of Alina’s purpose and convictions. Once more, two Cuban exiles would exchange stories and impressions about one of the most Machiavellian sociopolitical experiments in the history of humanity.
Christian arrived early afternoon, with his usual enthusiasm, but a bit concerned that the interview that he was about to conduct might deviate toward the political path, as it often happens when passions flare with the mention of the Cuban topic. Christian knows me, mainly through my writings and he often flatters me with his praise for my work. I think that what may have persuaded him to carry out the interview was probably the sense of justice that I try to always convey in my testimonies and philosophy. I have come to the understanding that only an objective and measured approach in regard to our sui generis Cuban case would bring us closer to the threshold of any possible restoration of our sequestered culture. First and foremost we must try to understand the process that has brought us to the disheartening reality of our present. We must look in the mirror of our fractured history and reflect on the multiple shortcomings of our often contradicting idiosyncrasy as the most important prerequisite to be able to amend it. Yet, to capitulate in front of a reluctant tyrant, who is even unwilling to recognize and rectify his misdeeds -while he takes full advantage of the ideological blindness and borderline admiration of a socialist United States government- should be in no way part of any common sense plan to resolve the Cuban problem. Nevertheless, here are some of the questions and answers from the interview conducted by Christian:
Luis, I would prefer not to get too much into politics.
It is hard, Christian, to be Cuban and not talk politics.
When and how old were you when you came from Cuba?
In 1971 and I was 14. You are in the presence of a lottery winner. If I had turned 15 in Cuba I would not have been able to get out. At that point I would have become property of the State.
You have lived most of your adult life in the United States. How do you reconcile your identity?
I have grown American, with a Cuban heart.
Have you returned to Cuba?
No, I would not. Not until Cuba is really free. For me to return would be to betray honor and principle. It would be to desecrate the memory of the dead and the affected by one of the longest tyrannies in history. The definition of freedom is not the same for all Cubans, however. In fact, we Cubans have been divided in different periods of exodus, therefore we have been divided. I always make it a point to recognize the possibility that if I had remained in Cuba one, two or three more decades, my reasoning would be like the Cubans who have arrived in recent times. The reprogramming to which various generations have been subjected is the most determining factor on the way one feels and thinks.
Do you dream of Cuba?
Always! It is ingrained in me. I am ingrained in it.
Do you talk to Cuba?
I would not know what to tell her.
Writing is your pastime and you have a great talent. How do you manage your work and you hobby?
Thank you for the praise. I may have improved as I have become more active with my writing. I always remember the words of our Apostle, José Martí: “Hecho está el pan, hágase ahora el verso” (“Now that the bread is done, let’s do the verse”).
Certainly, two interviews in one day of emotional and spiritual growth. A day also very revealing of the diversed ways and ideas in which we humans may perceive the same landscape, based on our personal and collective experiences. Alina mentioned “our Cuban novel”, one many do not know about and others dismiss because they have their own significant individual and social stories. I believe that the biggest revelation on this day was that there is a place on the face of the earth where hope still lives, where dreams are still free and each one of us, pilgrims of the planet, can tell and share our personal and collective stories, in a passionate or civilized manner.
Let the fairest and most supreme of all wills protect and guide these United States of America!
April 20, 2015