Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Day After My Birthday Party

The Day After My Birthday Party

Although the political turmoil had already started, during those days I couldn’t be concerned with how bad things would get. I had to live my life and there was little I could do about the country’s problems, later on I would see the heartache and uncertainty among us.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good, my birthday party had turned out better than expected; I got myself ready to go to school. I drank my café con leche and kissed my mother good-bye. The school was about three blocks from the house, one block to the school I noticed a group of students outside the building, I knew something was not normal, usually all the students were in the school courtyard by this time, my friend Marysol came up to me and whispered with a fearful look on her face “somebody painted the school walls with insults about Fidel Castro”. I stood there looking at these big red letters “abajo Fidel” (down with Fidel).

“The person or persons who did this are going to pay dearly,” I thought. It took weeks for the investigation to come to an end, all the suspected students were interrogated, their homes were searched and anybody that had the red color of paint in their house was arrested. No warrants, no lawyer, no Miranda Rights.

Those days brought a lot of grief to a many of people. Nobody wanted to talk against this new regime that had promised so much and delivered so little. Today I look back at those days and I still can’t understand how a country can be brought down to its knees so easily. Didn’t we see the changes? Didn’t we learn from the pass? Jose Marti gave us a gift with his poems. There was a message in them, his wisdom matched his heroism, and he wanted to leave us a warning.

“Yo quiero cuando me muera,

sin patria, pero sin amo,

tener en mi tumba un ramo,

de flores y una bandera”.

When the Cuban Constitution was changed in the early 60’s, it became the law of the land that all children would belong to the government, all decisions would be made by the communist party and parents lost all rights. That was a big turning point in Cuba; parents felt the need to get their children away to a safe land. I remember my parents pondered with the idea of sending me to Puerto Rico to live with my aunt. She had the foresight to leave the same year that Castro took power and had settled in Puerto Rico - lucky her.

Two of my cousins were sent ahead in the famous “Peter Pan” flights where thousands of kids were flown out of Cuba to the United States to live in foster homes until their parents could be united with them. A lot of families were separated; there were a lot of tears, uncertainty, pain, despair and anger. I had only lived 10 years and I had felt the sorrow that would take a lifetime to accumulate.



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