Granddaughter of Cuban exiles reflects on Fidel Castro’s death


Myra Reynoso

This photo, taken from a sidewalk in Havana, Cuba, shows a view of its rocky shoreline.

Sofia Reynoso, Staff Writer

“Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist.”

José Martí

Cuban national hero and poet



       Nov. 25, 2016, will be forever remembered as the day Fidel Castro died. For many, Castro represented a most brutal dictatorship. For others, he was a Cuban revolutionary working for class equality. As the granddaughter of Cuban exiles, Castro represents many things to me.  My family became fragmented due to political differences between those family members that supported Castro and those that opposed him.  For those that disagreed with Castro’s ideas, the only logical solution was to leave the country.  This meant that the majority of my family members came to the United States.  They came with no financial resources, English language fluency, friends nor family.  Those that remained in Cuba experienced dramatic changes in laws, education, food and overall daily life.  

        By all accounts, Castro’s initial thoughts were to address long held disparities in Cuba and undo some of the damage caused by the previous leader, Fulgencio Batista. This rhetoric about creating more equity was welcomed by many of the Cuban people, including some of my relatives.

        Although living just 90 miles north of Havana, my mother was never able to see her family in Cuba, and they were not able to visit her. The first time she was able to see her family was when she was around 14. Her Cuban family got special permission to fly to Mexico where my mother first met them. It was clear that even in Mexico, her family was careful about expressing any political views because of the environment they were coming from. My mother often recounts the story about her youngest cousin entering a supermarket in Mexico and beginning to sob at the sight of such an abundance of food.  After this brief reunion, my mother would not see them again for over twenty years.  And while I could go on and on about the different harsh realities her family encountered, it would be wrong to not acknowledge the beautiful and vibrant culture of Cuba.  I find that so much is written and said about Castro and his regime without regard for the people, the music, the food, or the joie de vivre of Cuba.

        Cuba has a rich tradition of art, music, literature and dance. There is a unique blend of Spanish, indigenous and Yoruban influences that are reflected in every aspect of Cuban culture.  Despite hardships, the people are warm, generous, vivacious and ingenious.  All one has to do is see the careful preservation of the many 1950s American classic cars that are running with engines made from who knows what.

        Castro’s death may be different for different people but the real issue is what his death means for the Cuban people. Will Cuba change or will it stay the same?  Who will become Cuba’s leader after Raul Castro? Will there be a continuation of the fragmentation of the Cuban people or a long overdue unification?

        Today, the country where the majority of my Cuban relatives now reside, the United States, is a divided nation.  My fear is that, as Jose Marti explained back in the 1870s, humans “will flee from where liberty does not exist.”  We are facing a time in which some of the very liberties that attracted my relatives to exile to the United States are being threatened.  So, if anything, Castro’s death is a reminder that division can have long-term impacts, on families and countries.