Opposing Views: South Florida on Cuba
After all of the sacrifice – the hurt is simple: Fidel won
By: Kelly Alvarez Vitale
People ask what my parents (and I) think regarding U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations. I am a first-generation American, and during the last several months I listened: To my parents, who simply are hurt; to friends, who agree with the new policy; to acquaintances, who can’t wait to travel to or open businesses in Cuba; and to the media. As an educated person I fully understand that we do business with far worse countries, and that our government’s policy toward Cuba didn’t work for the last 50 years. If you are removed from the situation, then it’s easy to justify.
What’s hard for many in the United States to understand is that your government hasn’t taken away your home, your business and your right to vote – which is what happened in Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power. I ask you to attempt to even imagine that, and then pick three things you want to take with you to a new country where you don’t know the language and will need to start from scratch. Your degree, contacts, and language mean nothing. You leave, because you believe in democracy and know that communism isn’t the answer. You leave, in hopes that one day you can go back to your country.
My grandparents and parents love America. To them, there is nothing better. They love it more than Cuba. They adapted, succeeded, and consider themselves Americans first.
And after all of the sacrifice – the hurt is simple. Fidel won. Watching this video and hearing people chant “Viva Fidel,” at the new embassy in DC is the dagger in the heart. People will ask what would have been the better solution? My answer: Do business with Cuba when Fidel is no longer in existence. The hurt wouldn’t be as raw.
I share this with you not to debate, but so you can at least empathize with the millions of Cubans and their children who feel this way. When we understand where the other person is coming from, we can become a more civilized society.
It’s Time to Positively Engage Cuba
By: Mario Cartaya
On January 1, 1959, all Cubans awoke to an uncertain future. While crowds cheered the end of one dictatorship, thousands of people were rounded up, detained, incarcerated, tried in kangaroo courts, and executed by firing squads. The free elections promised never occurred. A new dictatorship was born. Those of us who were able to leave the island left to an unpredictable exile.
During the beginning of our exile lives, everyone thought that the new regime would be short-lived. After all, the Platt Amendment would never allow for a Russian-supported communist dictatorship to exist only 90 miles from Key West. Surely the United States would not on sit on its hands while American businesses and properties were confiscated and “nationalized”. On April 17, 1961, the Bay of Pigs invasion failed after the U S. government was unable, or unwilling, to supply air cover. All hope for a short exile ended when the United States and Russia reached an agreement on October 28, 1962, in which President Kennedy promised Khrushchev that the U. S. would not invade Cuba if Russia agreed to remove their missiles.
The Cuban exodus was now a long-term reality, and became our new way of life. We suddenly became identified as refugees, exiles, and aliens. We forged a new Cuban-American identity that unified us and made us stronger. As a result we became one of the most educated — and financially successful — minorities in the history of the U. S.
During our life as exiles we sat on the sidelines, and helplessly watched as our families died in a country we could not visit. Castro’s government divided Cuban families; imprisoned or murdered dissidents; beat up and harassed anyone who would speak against the government, or whose relatives left Cuba; outlawed all religions; subjected its citizens to forced sugar harvesting; created food and material shortages; mandated military service in places like Angola; and submitted Cuban children to indoctrination of incompatible doctrines. They drowned people trying to leave in boats and rafts, and shot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes over international waters.
The times and political realities recently changed, and new opportunities challenge us again. After 56 years of looking the other way, it is time to try something new: Engage the Cuban government politically, culturally, and economically. This is nothing to fear, since we have tried the alternative and it did not work. It is time to rise beyond the hate and distrust of each other, and work towards a better future for Cuba and the United States. It is the right time in history. The Cuban nationals, Cuban-Americans, and American people want it. We can no longer sit on the sidelines.
I was 9 years old when I emigrated with my parents in 1960. I understand that our role now is to transcend our experiences, prejudices, and selfishness. We must stop being spectators, and start influencing and empowering other nine-year olds living in Cuba today, to have the hopes and dreams to transform our homeland and end the Cuban exile era. How would history judge us if at this critical juncture, we fail to act again?
Broward College, in partnership with the Village Square, is bringing together several community leaders for the first “Dinner at the Square” event of the second season. Join us for a discussion on “South Florida on Cuba: We Can Cross the Strait but Can We Bridge the Gap of Distrust?” on Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Tower Club, 100 SE 3rd Ave., One Financial Plaza, Regions Bank Bldg., 28th Floor, Fort Lauderdale. For tickets visit: visit http://bit.ly/1IFkctx or http://www.broward.edu/villagesquare.