Issues & Insights
Photo by Antônio Milena, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil License

Gracias Fidel! (You P.O.S.)

I was listening to a song by a country band called Yerba Blue, titled Gracias Fidel, marveling that it voiced exactly what I had been thinking for a long time. In the song, the man calmly reflects on his blessings on a Sunday and upon reflection he has to admit that he owes it all to Fidel Castro.

Because, thanks to the dictator, his family fled the Communist regime, arriving in the USA.  He then laughs because he has a good wife, good kids, a cabin in the woods that he visits in his brand-new SUV, and his life is great. And although he feels American, through and through, sometimes when the music hits, he loses all control and the Cuban comes out.

In a tone of irony (or is it sarcasm?) he says, “Thank you, Fidel, I owe it all to you.”

I have thought and felt the very same.

If my parents had not been forced to escape Communist rule, I would not have achieved what I have achieved. So, thank you, Fidel — you P.O.S.

Sometimes good fortune follows a catastrophe — and is the result of the catastrophe. Such is the case with Fidel Castro and his Communist minions taking over Cuba and ruining the country for over half a century. Because of the totalitarian repression, indoctrination, propaganda, militarization and starvation, tens of thousands of Cubans escaped the island (and are still doing so), an estimate being, roughly, 15-20% of the population.

Although quite a few made it to Spain, Mexico, and South America, most of the exiliados went north to America, particularly the USA, the historical place of Cubans fleeing authoritarianism in their country. But, unlike the previous eras, going to Miami turned out to be permanent, rather than temporary, and so Cubans adjusted to the American life and, even though they came only with the clothes on their back, they thrived.

Miami was initially a sleepy town and it is now a vibrant metropolis. Cubans were partly the reason for the changes, good and bad. It is now, in fact, the de facto capital of the Americas.

The United States is nowadays the global center of everything: commerce, culture, music, films, education, science, etc. (which fact irritates the French to no end) and many of the Cubans in the United States (and their descendants) have become very successful in all those areas.

Some have even become famous due to the nature of celebrity culture, particularly when it comes to entertainment. The film industry has had a number of Cuban-American actors and actresses (Desi Arnaz was before the dictatorship): Andy García, Cameron Diaz, Camille Guaty, Melvin Rodriguez, Enrique Murciano, Danny Pino, Ana de Armas, and others. With music, it has been Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Pitbull, Paquito D’Rivera, Willy Chirino, Cachao, Arturo Sandoval, and many more.

In literature, the better-known ones are better the playwright Nilo Cruz and the novelist Oscar Hijuelos, both of whom won Pulitzer Prizes. Cabrera Infante and Virgil Suárez are also well known. Zoé Valdés lives and writes in France while Carolina García-Aguilera specializes in the detective genre. Reinaldo Arenas was famous for a very short time because of being persecuted by the Cuban government for his homosexuality, but once in the U.S., he was dropped like a hot potato for his scathing criticism of American leftists (although his gay memoir, Before Night Falls, was made into a — very bad — movie), not very surprising considering the American media’s worship of the dictator.

And, of course, yours truly.

Unfortunately, I know of no outstanding Cuban-American scientists and, as for business, Roberto Goizueta was the head of Coca-Cola Company for several years and was the one responsible for the New Coke fiasco.

Contrary to what you have been told by Bernie Sanders and other assorted Communists, Cuba had a pretty good educational system at the time that Castro took power. To be sure, it was nowhere near the same level as the United States (it still is not), so that if one wanted to be, for example, a paleontologist then that individual would have had to emigrate. And, although the percentage of literacy has, indeed, gone up with the regime, it must be kept in mind that what students are allowed to read is extremely limited (mainly propaganda) and the histories are distorted.

And, of course, the students serve as slave labor during harvest time.

In the same vein, a few years ago, I asked a couple of Jewish friends of mine who did they think was the European politician most responsible for the creation and endurance of Israel. They threw out a few names, like Balfour.

At the end, I gave my answer: Adolf Hitler.

They were not too happy with my paradoxical answer, but I still think it is true.

Armando Simón is a trilingual native of Cuba, a retired forensic psychologist and college professor, author of research papers in technical journals, as well as being a playwright, and has published Very Peculiar Stories, When Evolution Stops, The U, A Cuban from Kansas, The Cult of Suicide and Other Sci-Fi Stories.

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