Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My People Cry Out for Freedom

I don't usually write about current events or political things on my blog, but an article I read today is crying out to be spread and shared.

I don't think I've ever written about my family history here on this blog. I'm Cuban-American. I don't know if that means anything to you so let me explain.

To be Cuban-American is to be the child of two countries. One is free, open and just. The other is a country in chains.

My grandparents on both sides fled their homes in Havana and Holguin as newlyweds. My maternal grandfather was a political prisoner. He barely escaped with his life, and it took years more for him to get his wife and daughter - my mother - into the United States.

My grandmother tells me how she got on that plane with her baby girl, the clothes they were wearing, the money in her purse... and nothing else. Behind her was the town she grew up in, with the movie theater where she watched Gone with the Wind when it first came out and the convent school where my grandfather used to walk her home. Behind her was the school where she taught as a young woman, my grandfather's law office and their first home together.

She didn't know where she was going to live. She had no idea if she would ever go back to Cuba.

Forty years later, she has never gone back.

I myself have never been to Cuba. I was born in Miami, the daughter and grand-daughter of refugees. But I am a Cuban still, because we are a people in exile. We didn't want to leave but were forced out by tyranny and oppression. Cuba is our homeland and always will be. We wait for the day we can return to reclaim our country, our people, our heritage.

Cubans traditionally eat pork, yucca, black beans and rice on Christmas Eve. Every Christmas my great-grandfather used to say, "Next year, we'll eat pork in Cuba."

He has been dead over twenty years.

He never went back.

That is what it's like to be a Cuban-American. Every member of my family has a story. Many of my uncles and great-uncles made daring escapes, some of which read like an action novel, with secret journeys in the dead of night, disguises and tricks and sleight-of-hand. Anything to reach American shores. The stories sound adventurous and they were certainly terrifying to experience. But that's what they went through, my brave ancestors, to give me and my family freedom.

That's why the article I read today spoke to me so strongly. A beautiful woman, Laura Pollan, was martyred for freedom in Cuba. Her husband was unjustly imprisoned by the communist government. She prayed and protested and spoke out for his freedom - until they silenced her.

My grandfather too was unjustly imprisoned by the communist government. My grandmother too prayed for his release. They were lucky enough that, somehow, he got out quickly and soon.

When I look at the face of Laura Pollan, I don't just see a brave woman who fought against tyranny and dictatorship. I see my grandfather, who was cruelly treated much like her husband was. I see my grandmother, who was once in her situation. I look at her and I see my country, my people, and my family.

I don't know if you've ever heard much about Cuba before. You might be totally ignorant of the situation there, and I don't blame you if you are. Cuba doesn't get much media coverage. Those who live there must feel as though the world has forgotten them.

If you're reading this, and you understand what I'm trying to say here, please offer a prayer for Laura Pollan and her family.

Please offer a prayer for the Ladies in White, Las Damas de Blanco, that their cause will succeed and their prayers be heard.

Most of all please pray for my country, for Cuba, that it will be free again someday.

Viva Cuba Libre!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your family's story--and by extension the story of many families of Cuban ancestry. I taught with two women whose families escaped from Cuba--one in Delaware and one in Florida. One woman escaped with her husband and her oldest daughter. The other was a child when her family escaped. Her father told them they were going on a day trip and he rented a boat, in essence kidnapping the boat owner and the few men who worked with him. She remembered being cold on the boat because they had only the clothes they were wearing. She remembered her father continually apologizing to the boat owner but also inviting him to join them. I wasn't able to access the article through the link but I will see if I can find it. Know that I will pray for Laura and for all who are seeking freedom and will ask our sisters to pray also.