By Margarita Alarcón Perea
A diplomat’s daughter growing up in NYC is something that I never thought twice about until way after the fact. It was full of “ups” and “downs”. Some of the “downs” I have mentioned in previous posts. Today I want to mention one of the marvellous “ups” which reached a summit a few years ago, or better said, came full circle.
My time in the City was a time of peace signs all over, Azzuma stores and Peppermint Park candy stores. It was a time when you wouldn’t dare walk through Washington Square Park after dark and when New York was not yet the “shinny bright Apple” it is now know as. The City was dirty; it was muggy and noisy, full of angry cabbies who knew exactly which way to avoid midtown traffic at rush hour and how to get around the Village. Chelsea was not yet a fancy place but rather a very run down neighbourhood and Tribeca was only just beginning.
It was during those years that the Viet Nam war was at its peak and the protest movement at become a major player in everyone’s daily life. By the time of the Watergate scandal the words “IMPEACH NIXON” were already filthy on a wall on one of the underpasses of the FDR drive North Bound. I remember this clearly because I would pass it daily on my ride home from UNIS. I was only 10 years old, but we were growing up quickly in those days, we were “old for our age” as Tom Hayden once described me in what I consider to this day one of the biggest compliments of my life, not only because of who paid it to me, but because of what it entails.
The election year was finally upon us and we were all deeply hopeful that President Ford would cease as head of state if for nothing else because he was a constant reminder to all that President Nixon had been around for far too long. And it was during that time that in my naïve and simple way I “campaigned” for a farmer from Georgia. He had a nice smile; he spoke with a lovely southern drawl that was so refreshing from any other sound coming from any of the establishment voices. James E. Carter was to become the 39th president of the United States and it was a welcome change. Obviously, I couldn’t actually campaign for anyone; I wasn’t a citizen and much less any where near voting age. But we were excited. My friends and I would sit around and in our very childish naïveté in between conversations about rock stars and who was “going with whom” we would talk our own political talk and we all agreed that Carter was the man for us.
Years passed, President Carter came and went. We all saw how he and his lovely wife Rosalynn placed their youngest daughter in a public school in DC to the bewilderment of many who couldn’t deter themselves from ridiculous senseless criticism. We all lived the hostages in Iran and how they were released. In Cuba we all lived the Mariel Boat lift that to an extent backfired gravely.
In 2002 my father gave me the opportunity to meet former President Carter when he made his first trip to Cuba. It was like a dream come true. I was actually meeting a president I had in some way been involved with and liked and respected and had much to thank for.
Shakeing his hand and having had the opportunity to spend time as an observer in his presence while he and others spoke of things pertaining to Cuban life and the daily trials and tribulations of relations between both Cuba and the US will for ever be a cherished part of my life.
He is back in Havana again and I wish to say! Bienvenido a casa Sr. Presidente!