One of the risks of living on this earth so long is that eventually you are bound to upset people, including sometimes those who love you and who you love most.
My last blog, To Hate or Not To Hate, appears to have upset many who have privately emailed their disappointment with my “political views”, their disappointment that their friend is so different from them.
For many Pedro Pans like myself, and for many Cuban exiles in general, the words liberal and Communist are too close for comfort. Add to that the fact that I am involved in writing a book with Martin Guevara, Ché Guevara’s nephew, and I become a suspect in their midst. Someone to “be careful of”; someone to disassociate from as soon as possible. I could be “the enemy” in disguise. Some have called me a “traitor”.
I am not a “typical” Pedro Pan. Very quickly after my arrival I left the camp where so many stayed, to live with a foster family. A few months later my family, who had stayed in Cuba in support of my imprisoned father, arranged for me to go to boarding school in California. There, I had no Cuban friends, no Cuban culture, no Cuban influence whatsoever. I became truly bicultural, and embraced my new country and my new language. I lived in Miami a total of a few months through the years and visited once a year for a while, but I never made “new” Cuban friends. I never lived in a place with a Cuban community for long. The melting pot truly melted me. I married an American, had children with him, divorced and remarried another American.
That is not to say I stopped loving Cuba; that is not to say I forgot my past. To this moment in time I love Cuba fiercely, passionately if you will. My memories of every moment of my childhood there are etched in my soul forever. But having been planted in a different garden than the majority of other Cubans, I became a different flower.
It is not the purpose of my blog to criticize my friends or their beliefs. I know both them and their beliefs intimately well. Despite our differences, we share many things in common, not the least of which is knowing how it feels to lose everything and everyone you love in the space of a day, to have your soul ripped apart by one man’s megalomanic journey, to have been betrayed to the depths of one’s soul, and to watch from far away as the land you once called your own is pillaged by hatred and incomprehensible violence by one’s own people. I understand their position because I once held it, and I defend their right to hold it.
Whoever I am, whatever I have become, I own. I have no desire to convert others to my way of thinking, for my way of thinking is never static enough to wait for that conversion nor is my certainty of rightness such that I want followers on my path. I have broken every commandment, I think, except Thou Shalt Not Kill, although there are many ways of killing people besides really killing them and I am not sure that my words have not mortally wounded. I hope not.
I have known poverty, struggle, illness, doubt, loneliness, and I have known joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and I have known love. All these things have taught me lessons meant for me, and all those things have led me to value freedom above fear, love above hate, tolerance above intolerance, humility above pride. I believe with all my heart that we are nothing without one another regardless of our color, sexual orientation, or creed. I believe that we all have the right to a world where Cuba cannot happen again. I suspect that such a world will require that we at least contemplate awakening to new ways of communicating with one another, of supporting one another, of remembering the lessons of the Masters who have spoken the language of eternal love. But of course, I could be wrong.