Letter to Fidel

I am at a loss for words.  A man of your intelligence appears to have just now come to the conclusion that Cuba’s economic model doesn’t work- decades after it stopped working.  Decades after your people have gone without the most basic necessities while foreigners who visited your island were treated to its most precious resources; decades after Cubans became the migrant workers of their own land.

What a fascinating specimen you are!  The man of a thousand masks.  The true changeling.  A man not of his word.

Once upon a time you were introduced to my father at a restaurant near the University of Havana.  He was a lawyer and journalist.  You were a law student.  Many years later when he told the story of that meeting he said: “Fidel had the aspect of a bandit.  He carried a revolver in his suit.  I should have known better than to trust him.”  He traveled to the Sierra Maestra to take you some supplies and to learn more about your mission, so that he could in turn inform the Cuban people about the possibility that their liberation was near.  My father was not an easy man to fool, but he believed every world you said.

At the time you told my father that you wanted to restore the constitution of 1940.  That you wanted to free the country of the scourge of Batista.  That you didn’t want your people to live in a country where they had to worry about a torturer like Masferrer.  You appealed to his sense of justice.  You convinced him of your sincerity.  Some years later, when he dared to state on National TV that you were a Communist, you sentenced him to twenty years in prison without the benefit of trial.  Three weeks after that, you called yourself a Communist.  We already knew your word meant nothing.

You came down from the mountains victorious, and with you came beautiful young men with long hair, their crucifixes and their guns shimmering in the Caribbean sun.  We welcomed them with the fervor of a religious procession for they reminded our mostly Catholic country of Jesus and the statues of the saints in our churches.  Do you remember how many of the rich you later delighted in calling “gusanos” (worms) donated their money and their gold to your cause?  I remember women coming out of their homes carrying gold and handing it to the young men.  Offerings of confidence and hope.  Offerings of adoration.

Shortly after that beautiful procession the bloodshed began again.  Not now Masferrer and his henchmen.  No.  Now, the people began to eat each other alive at your urging.  Paredón.  The bloody wall. No trials.  A little girl sitting in a chair in front of the television watching a man named Sosa Blanco’s eyes.  She would later recognize that look as the look of a cornered animal.  And she would never forget his name.  Never.  He became for her the symbol of broken trust, of the ugliness of which man is capable, of the betrayal of her heart.  I was that little girl.

I was the little girl who collected the milicianos’ bullets, who taught the guajiros to read, who wanted to believe that we would be free.   That one of our own would never again make us bleed.  I am still the little girl who remembers everything, Fidel.  And there are so many of us!

You don’t hear our voices because you have done a brilliant job of using your charm and your charisma with journalists around the world of selling your version of the story.  And of course, you have the perfect platform to do so- unlike most of us.  Who can resist a Messiah?  The youth, the long hair, the intelligence, the facility for words…so when we try to tell our stories, the good people of this country who dream of justice look askance  as if we have forgotten or misunderstood what we lived inside our own skins.

So now, comes the end.  It’s written all over your face, your countenance.  No doctor, no Babalú Ayé, no miracle.  Your death is around the corner.  Some may believe this turnaround comes from a last minute mea culpa.  But having been around Hospice patients for many years I know that most people don’t repent at the end like they do in feel good stories.  So I’m sitting here waiting for the punch line.

You preached equality while hating blacks and gays.  You pointed your finger in accusation at the Yankees- the Yankees that gave so many of your people a home in their country and who welcomed us Pedro Pan children with their hearts.  You put people in prison for speaking their mind, for owning dollars.  Even now you welcome foreigners into your country to invest in its resources while forbidding your own people from doing the same.  What next?

Is it possible that you have suddenly considered that perhaps history won’t absolve you after all once the world learns the truth of what you have really done?  Is it possible you want to leave a little room for friendship with both God and the Devil just in case they exist after all?  Now you like Jews and don’t like Muslims?  And now, after the world trembled at the possibility of nuclear chaos in 1962 you tell us
“After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all” ?

I don’t know what comes next in that circus that you call your life, besides your death.  But there is one thing I am sure of, Fidel.  YOU weren’t worth it all!


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