Saturday, February 10, 2007

How Fidel Came to Own Everything

How Fidel Came to Own Everything

The political turmoil in Cuba should not have been of any concern to me. However, in my young mind I knew the family would not be the same. My cousin Clara and her husband Jacobo left the country, as many others did after them, like my uncle Jose, my aunt Rosa, and I knew soon my parents would find a way to leave the island to find peace of mind on foreign soil.

Freedom of religion, that’s something we had before Castro but soon would loose. I remembered sitting in class at the Catholic School Madre Marias Escolapias in 3rd grade, the militia entered the classroom abruptly and stopped right in front of the nun’s face, advising her with a commanding voice to stop the class. Surreal!

Soon after, all the religious or privately owned schools would become public schools and property of the Government. For Fidel Castro, practicing religion was not included in the teachings of Lenin and Marx. Even Christmas celebrations were illegal and became an insulting act against the Revolution. Being a religious person would give you the title of “counter-revolutionary” which eventually would get you in trouble with Castro. He wanted to wipe “GOD” off of the map.

My father, poor man, he will never get over loosing the dairy farm. This small dairy farm that he loved so much had perhaps 30 to 40 cows, a small cottage we used in the summer during vacations, a barn to the side and a fruit tree orchard behind the house. The stable was bigger than needed; I guess he was hoping to increase the cattle in the future. There was a huge tree that grew orange flowers, I think it was called a Ceiba tree and next to it was the windmill that pumped the water out of the well into a reservoir tank.

When Batista, the previous Cuban president was in power, some anti-Batista rebels had been hiding in the hills of the farm, they were revolutionaries, my father felt sorry for the young rebels and instead of turning them in to the police, he would take fresh fruits, meat and milk to them. Nobody liked Batista…he was a dictator. But the rebels assured my father that Fidel Castro would come and give the country back to the people.

It was those same rebels that came in with weapons and confiscated my father’s beloved farm, he couldn’t believe it! He told the soldiers “not this farm! Don’t do this to me!” He broke down in tears. First they told him he could continue working the farm as a manager, that the revolution would pay him a salary, my father turned them down. How dare Castro take away his livelihood? After some arguing and some threats, he was told to leave the farm and not come back, and he had to walk all the way to the city on foot. They didn’t let him drive the milk delivery truck home, or ride the horse home, in fact he couldn’t even keep the shepherd dog as companion for his long 25 miles journey into town. He walked and cried all the way home. Broken hearted and he vowed to leave Cuba one day.

It was six months later, my father grew more disillusioned with Castro’s Regime, even going to Church on Sunday was reason to be stopped and questioned by the soldiers. Everywhere he went he was watched and followed and he felt the situation was getting worse. On every block there was a CDR – Committee of Defense of the Revolution, which meant that there was a snitch on every block. Their job was to watch everybody and turn them in as counter-revolutionaries. Their offense didn’t have to be very serious; it was just a psychological way of spreading fear and keeping us terrorized.

The plan was in motion for his escape.

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