By Alina M. Lopez Marin
Originally posted on CAFE (Cuban Americans For Engagement)
When my parents came to the states they realized that they would not be returning to Cuba again. They were very disillusioned by their forced exit from Cuba and with the exiles. They knew very early on that they would not live to return to the island. They were not resentful, as we did not lose any property or wealth. My mother was hurt by her inability to return to see her father before he died or after. My maternal grandmother came to the states in 1966 and moved to Miami shortly after living with my parents for a year.
While at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, I became a founding member of an offshoot of the Democratic Party. We campaigned against an incumbent and successfully installed the first Black congressman in Maryland, Parren Mitchell. Mitchell would openly say that he won his first election thanks to the white kids from Catonsville. He won by 35 votes. A few students at UMBC made a bit of history. Two of that group went on to win elected offices in Maryland.
Upon graduation from college I was recruited to apply for an investigator position with the federal government and became subject to the Hatch Act, a law that at that time prevented speech by civil servants related to political candidates. So I was apolitical till I left the federal government and went to work for the state of California in an appointed position in 1983. My naiveté regarding politics had a rude shock and I learned more about the ruthlessness of politics in 3 years than I had learned in all the years before during my life.
My mother died in 1985. I was not present when she died from cancer and her death took a toll on me. I fell into a depression, which kept me from working from 1986 till 1989. I returned to work for the state as a Deputy Labor Commissioner, and retired in 2000. At that time I left California for two years and returned to work for the federal government till my retirement in 2010.
My parents had taught me to stay away from the politics in Miami and throughout that time and I did not discuss politics while visiting relatives in Miami.
When I learned that my grandmother had fallen ill with cancer in the late 70s I spent a week with her and had a chance to talk to her about so many things. What I recalled the most was her surprising statement to me that she had regretted leaving Cuba. I had always admired my grandmother and her statement kept me wondering.
In 2008 I vacationed in Belize and on my return to Miami airport I flew over Cuba. I flew over Guanahacabibes, Pinar del Rio. The land called to me. There was no doubt that there was a special magnet that I felt while flying over my island of birth. Upon my return, right after the election of Barack Obama, I began to read everything that I could find about the current politics and life in the island.
I found out about the Cuban 5, about Alberto Coll: The Cuban 5 are 5 men who are Cuban agents who infiltrated the Brothers to Rescue group before its demise caused by Jose Basulto. Their purpose was to monitor exile activity to prevent acts of terrorism against the island. I learned about the actors of terrorism against the island, the Remolcador incident in Cuba. The shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue, Helms Burton, Clintons politics toward Cuba, the politics surrounding the Elian Gonzalez incident, etc. Etc.
I felt so ashamed that I had not been paying attention to the mess created by a few. I felt ashamed that Alberto Coll had been so maligned and persecuted because he changed his mind about the effectiveness of the embargo. I felt ashamed that five men who truly cared about the welfare of Cubans had risked their lives to protect them and that all we did was shoot the messenger. All this took place while some people who are true mercenaries on both sides had done everything possible to hurt Cubans, just because they are not simpatico to their cause. I became aware of the sinister politics that has dominated the past 53 years and what an utter failure these politics had wreaked on all of us and most importantly on the 11000000 Cubans in the island.
My awareness deepened by my correspondence with Gerardo Hernandez, the head Avispa of the Cuban 5, who has a jail term of two lives and 15 years, a medieval sentence imposed out of fear and loathing, rather than true righteous indignation for a crime. Our correspondence has made me aware how little Cubans know of us, exiles and how little I knew of life in the island since I left. Gerardo thought that my mother must have been a terrorist. Imagine that. Our ensuing friendship made clear to me that we need to communicate like normal caring folk rather than continue to allow the hate and vengeance that has been foisted upon us by the congressmen of South Florida and seconded by the congressmen of New Jersey who allege to represent the Cuban American community. They really do not represent us and all they do is give us a bad name in the United States and the rest of the world. Lets leave the generation of hate behind with our parent’s generations and that of the Castros. We do not have to agree on everything to communicate. All we have to do is respect each other’s nations sovereignty, our right to think for ourselves and move on.
Lets travel, learn from one another; Lets live and let live.