June 22, 2017

WHY I WILL NOT TRAVEL TO CUBA

2506 cartoon

With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.

William Lloyd Garrison

On the occasion of Pope Francis visit to Cuba, and the thaw of relations between our countries, the topic of traveling to Cuba has resurfaced. At first glance, the Pope’s visit was more of appeasement of the Castro’s than support for the suffering population. Also, the relaxation of rules that the US had vis a vis Cuba, so far has not produced any positive change from Cuba’s rulers. In this context, my feelings of traveling to Cuba have not changed. I accept the right of everyone traveling when and where they please, and have no qualms with tourists visiting the island. As far as the Cubans that come here looking for a better life, they like any other immigrant, should be able to go back, but should not receive the exclusive privileges afforded to them by the Family Adjustment Act. My objections are mainly directed to the exiles, like my family, that left our native country seeking freedom and in some cases safety. For those hypocrites that are seeking to make or increase fortunes with the excuse of helping the oppressed citizens, I feel contempt. For those that travel for tourism, religious or scientific reasons, I accept their individual right to do so, but feel disappointment and sadness. In an extensive article in the NYT, a group of very good friends of ours were highlighted as they related their recent visit to visit Cuba with the group that used the Pope’s visit as reason, after more than fifty years of exile. I know them well enough to ascertain their values, their love for the family, and their disdain towards Castro. I feel sorry for them as I know that their conscience will make them agonize over whether their selfish motives were enough to forget their families and friends sacrifice and suffering.

I will not travel to Cuba because;

If I went, I will prove false the reasons that made my family leave more than fifty years ago. At that time, my father a very well known MD in the island and abroad, was coveted by the establishment to endorse the newly installed regime, assuring all of us a continuation of our life style. Like many other natives they chose to abandon fortune and privileges, for the simple reason of not been able to sacrifice their free will in order to maintain the status quo. Personally I was facing some risks to my security and left, even when I was only a year away from receiving my Medical Dr. degree. The lack of freedom and the tyrants that own the nation is still present so our rationale for leaving even now exists.

I will not travel to Cuba because;

When I left my country of birth, many friends continued their fight against the dictators, many losing their lives or landing in prison wasting their youth and withstanding all kinds of torture by their captors. By going there I would be betraying their memory, sacrifice and valor. In the NYT article, my friends describe their visit to the Havana Biltmore, a social club that they attended and that is so happens we belonged too since I was a child. A once private enterprise, it now belongs to the Castro’s and is for the exclusive use for tourists and special events, another source of income for the rulers. One of the visitors told the reporter how he looked at pictures in the club’s wall and recognized some of his fellow rowers. I wonder if he used that occasion to remember his mates and our friends, the brothers Puig. These well known athletes were captured by the regime, one killed by firing squad and the other imprisoned for thirty years. These like many other of the Club’s members suffered the same fate. Did he offer a prayer for their souls and sacrifice? If so, it was not mentioned in the article.

I will not travel to Cuba because;

I have not changed my desire to fight for liberty, with whatever resource I might have available. This desire made me join the 2506 Brigade that was abandoned to their fate by this country’s government. Even if I was fortunate in being able to survive I would be disloyal to my compatriots that lost their lives, were injured fighting or those that suffered incarceration.

I will not travel to Cuba because;

Because even if I have the same longing, memories, and sentiment for my past life, and am also running out of time to go revive my memories, I also have principles and these overcome the selfish desires of personal gratification. I refuse to forget the past regardless of how many decades will pass. To forget our history, our sacrifices, and our ideology is akin to renouncing one self. Our past guides the present, and our future, and the best legacy to our descendants is to leave them a sense of purpose for ones lives other than instant gratification. One of the visitors went to show her family the statue of her great grandfather, who happened to join the cause of Cuba’s independence at my great grandfather’s house in 1868, and never weakened in his desire for freedom regardless of the time elapsed or their defeats. I hope that she used the stopover to relate to her family about the sacrifices needed in pursuit of a worthy goal, and the similarity of the actions of our forefathers to the ones executed by our generation and young Cubans in the island. Maybe she did, but it was not mentioned in the article. I for one will never demean myself by having to ask as a favor permission to enter my family’s home. I hope the visitor used the instance to explain to the present occupants that the home was acquired originally by hard work and sacrifice, and subsequently stolen by the new owners of the country. Maybe he did, but it was not mentioned in the article. As far as my children goes, I want them to realize that the Cuba that I lived and describe to them is no longer, and if they ever visit they would see another nation.

I will not travel to Cuba because;

If I do so I would be not only making a statement of acceptance of a regime that continues to deny the population of the most basic human rights, but will also be supporting the present policy of Obama and others that favor helping the tyrants in their economy and by opening embassy’s as a sign of recognition, without receiving anything in return. Let us quote the words of Apostolic Nuncio Bruno Musaro, first in Cuba and presently in the Vatican when openly referred to the “absolute poverty and human and civil degradation” that the Cuban people suffer, who are “the victims of a socialist dictatorship keeping it subjugated for 56 years. ”

Fernando J. Milanes, MD

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