The Other Face of the Cuban Exile
By Pablo Pacheco Avila
I cannot come up with an exact number of how many times, while still in Cuba, I heard the phrase: “the exile is intolerant” “the exile is stubborn”, or that “the exile is intransigent”. Although it may sound strange, this governmental propaganda and generalization method did function to manipulate and lie to public national and international opinion.
Today I must swim in the sad and difficult waters of the Cuban exile. One of the most prolonged and difficult ones of our America during the past centuries. Many believe that exile is glorious, or that it is the best way to succeed in life. This is a serious misconception. Exile is nothing more than an incurable wound which amputates your soul and sometimes leaves you feeling as if you have not realized that you are still alive.
Miami has been classified by many as the capital of the Cuban diaspora. After the Cuban capital, this city is the one with the most Cuban citizens. It is a large city which, prior to the Cuban exodus, was insignificant in terms of United States geography. Many assure that it was built on the marshes of Florida, and there are also those who argue that its success and development is owed in large part to all the Cubans who have been arriving since 1959.
I have only been a month in this beautiful and welcoming city. Little by little, I have started understanding the contrasts of a reality I was once afraid of. I was also rather frightened by the thought of moving to Spain, due to misinformation which the Cuban national press spreads about the rest of the world. Luckily, I like challenges and I always accept them despite the consequences.
I have been invited to various meetings with Cuban exiles and I cannot lie and say that I do not feel shame when generalizations are made about the exile, using epitaphs like ‘intolerant’ and ‘close-minded’. Although some Cubans living in the diaspora allow their passions to take the place of their hearts, I believe that labeling the entire exile as intransigent means that one does not really know their particularity or the various testimonies of Cuban political refugees.
The passion for achieving the freedom of Cuba cannot and should not be confused with our own interests and ideologies. We all have the right to the diversity of opinions and absolutely no one holds absolute truth. For once and for all, we should all learn from each other, those who are here and those over there, that Cuba is something greater than ourselves, greater than our miseries and our own interests. We have to clearly identify our real enemy: the dictatorship.
With my own eyes I have seen old men, nearly blind, using their walking sticks to be able to transport themselves, and even then they still think of Cuba’s freedom. Many give the little strength they have left to the cause, and the only thing the dictatorship has not been able to rip from them is their love for the homeland. That deserves respect. They are not perfect, and that is normal, for they are humans.
Personally, before condemning I prefer understanding all those who have suffered so much and for so many years. It’s easy to criticize the exiles or label them with all sorts of names or arguments, like the dictatorship does. But we have to put ourselves in their spot; when you haven’t waited for the execution wall, or haven’t given your last bit of hope to your companion right next to you who is on his way to be killed, or when you’ve never suffered a day in a prison or been attacked by the vileness of the henchmen, then it is easy to criticize.
My struggle is non-violent, and I will never deny that. But my fate was to live during a different era, an era much more different than the one in which Cubans confronted the totalitarian regime with weapons. They did not rely on the support from the international community, the media, or the new technologies we have today. Those were times when no one listened to the political prisoners, when not even the Cuban people wanted to listen and preferred to accept the romanticism of what converted itself into a dictatorship. I would be lying if I denied that, confronted with the same situation, I would have done the same, if I knew what was going to happen to our island.
Throughout the story of the past 5 decades of our country, those who are truly intolerant and intransigent are those who, without permitting the most minimal form of dissent, have enslaved Cuba, ruined our nation, executed, jailed, tortured, and exiled their own compatriots. The same ones who, today, without ever having ceased the attacks, do not hesitate to use the money of the exile to oxygenate their battered finances. The real intransigents were those who decided by decree that we’d all “be like Che”.
I respect and understand those who planted the seed of rebellion against the dictatorship, which later germinated among various generations of Cubans. I respect and appreciate those who today comb white hairs and who paved the way in a foreign land, so that our experience here today would be less difficult. Particularly, I must point out that in Miami I have received a real human comfort, a solidarity, and a space which I was denied in my own country.
It is impossible to ignore this. And if we do, we run the risk of suffering what has already been lived. But if we want to reconstruct our nation and get her out of the ruins which she has been submerged in by more than 50 years of dictatorship, we should turn to justice and not revenge.