By PATRICK SYMMES
Pedro Haber didn't actually start by saying that it was "a difficult year for the Sad Ones." He had said that it was a difficult year for the Dolorinos. The word is rooted in dolor, meaning "pain, ache; sadness, grief." When Pedro said Los Dolorinos it sounded like all of those things, a world of aching and grieving, the ones who suffer. But it had another meaning, for these were the men who, as boys, came from a happy place. Dolores was their old school, the Catholic academy, run by Jesuits. The Colegio de Dolores where they had all met had been a boarding school in eastern Cuba, once upon a time. The sadness had come later.
Everyone in the room, from the busboys on up, spoke the twin languages of this nation-within-a-nation. But not everyone is equally ambidextrous, and thought and speech leapt between Cuba and the United States. At the far right of the room, near the entrance, was a special table reserved for VIPs and the guests of honor. Pedro Haber and I were sitting there, and the accents and vocabulary at this table were a mixture of proper upper-crust Castilian Spanish and plain American English. Two spots over to my right was Pedro Roig, a Dolores alumnus and Bay of Pigs veteran, who was now head of TV Martí in Washington. Immediately on my left was Lundy Aguilar, retired from his professorship at Georgetown University.
And directly across the table was the Reverend Father Juan Manuel Dorta-Duque, one of the last surviving teachers from the old school in Cuba. He was a Jesuit, or more properly, a member of the Society of Jesus, perhaps the most influential of all Catholic orders. Dorta-Duque was eighty-four years old now, but that wasn't old enough to have known Fidel Castro. Dorta-Duque told me that he didn't arrive at Dolores until 1951. But he had known all the Jesuits who had taught Fidel, as well as some of the younger boys from those days, or the younger brothers of the boys who had studied with Fidel. Dorta-Duque lived in a Jesuit home now
"Yes, I remember them," Dorta-Duque said, leaning forward. He meant that he remembered the students and teachers from long before the Revolution, when the future of the country was in the hallways of Dolores. "But they are all dead," he added.
One of them was sitting at the same table, actually. A survivor, just a few feet away. But Lundy Aguilar didn't hear the remark, and Dorta-Duque's mistake did no harm. Two languages, two minds, a Cuban inside every American. .......The phrase Los Dolorinos harked back to a starting point, before any expulsion from any garden.
The Colegio de Dolores was the capital school of Cuba's second city, the best
education available in eastern Cuba. The richest gathering of the richest part
of Cuba, a school of the chosen few.
The banquet hall of the Miami Springs Country Club is called the Legends Room, but it isn't very big. There were 105 people in there by 8:00 P.M., and most of them were talking, a raucous atmosphere of jokes, bragging, disbelief, laughter, shouts, argument, and monologue, all of it bouncing off long tables of rented glass and dull knives. The crowd was prone to thick glasses and hearing aids, but functional, still able to dance and to argue. The men touched one another constantly, putting a hand on another's arm, pressing a shoulder in their grip, even clutching one another's lapels in a kind of menacing embrace. They wore pins in those lapels, showing off their allegience to political movements, their qualifications as survivors of various disasters, their enlistment in Masonic Lodges, the Elks, Lions, Odd Fellows, and Rotary, or ethnic allegiances, sporting clubs, religious leagues, cultural groups, charitable drives, and other bulwarks against the loss of everything. Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean, said that an exile had only two possessions, the language of his birthplace and the keys to a house that no longer exists. Cubans are joiners, filling their empty pockets with new things.
On the way into the Legends Room, the door charge was $5, collected as a donation to the welfare fund for impoverished alumni of the school. For that money, you received a printed program for the reunion event. It listed the speakers, and featured page after page of pictures, old shots of the Colegio de Dolores in Santiago. There were many of the students of past days, and shots of the signature buildings of Santiago and the surrounding region. .............That was Cuba, but that isn't Cuba. Oriente doesn't exist anymore. Fidel Castro had literally redrawn the map, turning the traditional six into a new fourteen. The old provinces and identifications were blown up and replaced with rational borders and, sometimes, names commemorating Castro's own life.
Part of old Oriente was broken off and renamed Granma province, because Castro had run his boat Granma aground there. How could an exile say he was from such a place? The old Isle of Pines, where a young Castro had served jail time, had been split off to make a province called the Isle of Youth, contractually dedicated to education. Who could acknowledge such things? They didn't sell accurate road maps, either. Never mind if Castro had built a new highway down the middle of Cuba, or that a better map would reveal all the satellite housing cities and rural polytechnic universities that had sprung up across Cuba. Nobody was going to that Cuba. The less accurate the map the better.
I browsed through some copies of old photographs of Santiago, with men in straw hats, and views of the bay, or the old Bacardi rum factory. Next down the table was a Havana telephone guide from 1959. This old phone book, full of period illustrations and corporate optimism, is the single best selling item at the Cuba Nostalgia Fair, a memorabilia mart that draws thirty thousand people to a convention center in Miami once a year.
Castro v. the Church
Fidel Castro last week lashed out at the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba as "scribes and Pharisees," "peons of the American embassy" and "Franco Fascists." Castro's rage was aroused by a pastoral letter* condemning "the growing advance of Communism in our country." He shouted that whoever "condemns the revolution betrays Christ" and is "capable of crucifying Christ again."
The Catholic Church in Cuba has only 720 priests, one for each 8,000 Catholics, compared with the U.S. ratio of one for every 760 Catholics. Moreover, Cuba's lower classes consider the church somewhat foreign; 400 of the priests are Spanish-born (most of them anti-Franco, despite Castro's accusation), and another 100 are foreigners from other countries. Although nearly 85% of Cuba's 6,700,000 population is nominally Catholic, regular church attendance is confined mostly to women and children. Castro himself went to Jesuit-run schools for eleven years and wore a religious medal as a guerrilla in the hills. But he is divorced (though not remarried) and does not go to church. His ten-year-old son, under his mother's influence, has become a Methodist.
Yet even Maximum Leader Castro cannot afford to ignore the church. In the past five years, it has been a rallying point for enemies of dictators who fell in Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia. Last week, after pro-Communist gangs attacked crowds leaving Havana Cathedral, Archbishop Diaz threatened that the Cuban Catholic Church might declare itself officially "in silence"—as it is behind the Iron Curtain. As the Castro-Catholic battle got hotter, church attendance showed a sharp and significant upturn.
Free Cuba from What?
Fidel Castro's regime is guilty of numerous documentable crimes stretching from the jungles of Peru to the deserts of Ethiopia. Documented reports exist of Cuban troops in cahoots with the Ethiopian government denying food to starving Ethiopians because of their political ideology. In Latin America, Castro funded guerrilla groups throughout the hemisphere generating terror and fear for decades.
At home Castro's regime has created the most repressive police state apparatus in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba is an Orwellian nightmare set in the tropics with Big Brother sporting a beard and cigar. Cuba has refused to ratify any major international law enshrining fundamental human rights. It has refused to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Castro formed Committees for the Defense of the Revolution(CDR) which operate on almost every block in Cuba. Spying on neighbors and reporting back to the regime. Negative reports can land one in jail. Talking to foreigners invites questioning into your loyalty to the regime. Large numbers of individuals are incarcerated in Castro's prisons for political crimes ranging from speaking against the regime to trying to leave the island.
In June 1991 at a meeting between Fidel Castro and several members of various communist organizations, it was agreed to set up the infamous Rapid Response Brigades. Their principle aim is to "defend the country, the Revolution and Socialism in all circumstances, by confronting and liquidating any sign of counter-revolution or crime." Trying to leave Cuba without government sanction is a criminal offense punishable by prison. Due to this Cubans are unable to build larger more seaworthy crafts, and resort to innertubes, and in some cases fiberglass cannisters in search of freedom.
The Castro regime's response to the AIDS crisis has been mandatory nation-wide testing with forced incarceration for anyone who tested positive for the HIV virus. In addition, Castro has had a long tradition of imprisoning homosexuals and transexuals as "undesirables." Imprisonment is often based on mere suspicion and rumor. Recently it was reported that young people in Cuba are purposely "shooting up" with HIV infected blood so that they can go to these camps to avoid forced labor.
In a letter dated 14 September 1992 that was smuggled out of the same prison by a group of political prisoners, it was reported that a number of prisoners with AIDS rioted on 19 August demanding better food and medical attention. Guards used rubber batons, wooden sticks, and other blunt instruments and an unknown number of prisoners were injured. Several of the AIDS sufferers were transferred to the maximum security area of the prison. Two months earlier a prisoner with AIDS sent to this area had his food quota cut in half and the diet reccomended by doctors withdrawn. The prisoner died three weeks later. The fate of the others is unknown.
Castro's achievements bear mentioning and we shall list them here. First, his regime has had the longest serving political prisoner in world history: over 28 years. Cuba, in 1959 was economically self sufficient, and did not have the tourist-Apartheid of today. Tourist-Apartheid is the situation in which Cuban citizens don't have equal access to certain beaches or restaurants that Tourists do. Reminiscent of the system of segregation of the South, or of Apartheid in South Africa these conditions have been labeled "tourist apartheid."
In forty years Fidel Castro took an island with pre-existing progressive healthcare and drove it into the ground. In 1959 Cuba had 337 hospitals in 1989 the number had decreased to 264. Increases in other areas of Cuban healthcare did not manifest themselves on a per capita basis. Disease in Cuba has steadily increased since 1959. Suicides in Cuba more than doubled from a 1,011 figure for 1970 to 2,220 in 1989.