My dad grew up under the Batista regime in Cuba, a time when the country was run by a small, wealthy elite class and the rest of the population toiled as if they were serfs.
The rich controlled all the natural resources. This was Batista’s vision of a fair economic system — which sort-of approximates the system the U.S. was catapulting toward before greedy financial institutions went too far and crashed the system. Now, even the wealthy are hurting under the collapse of this global pyramid scheme.
My dad was not among the rich of Havana. His family was so poor he had to quit school in the second grade (~1935) so he could work, too. It must have been a hard life, working at the age of 7. Throughout his life, he did what he could—cleaning, carpentry, fishing.
He put up with that way of life for a long time partly because he was controlled by fear. (Sound familiar?)
I think just like the way a lot of working- and middle-class families here in America are starting to crack, my dad realized he had to escape, which isn’t easy when you’re stuck on an island.
It took him years to figure out how to get away. He became a merchant marine.
He was around 30 years old when he snuck off that ship while it was stationed in Miami. He became lost in the city—years before the waves of elite rich Cubans arrived. Those people were thrown out by Castro who naively thought that by getting rid of the rich and seizing their money and property that he could make the country a utopian, socialist paradise. But Castro couldn’t do it, especially under the weight of the U.S. government. So much for viva la revolución. Men with power hold onto their stupid ideals even though it hurts the people they supposedly love.
My dad wound up in New York City and met my mom, a beautiful, headstrong Boricua, in 1960.
Fast forward to 2008… We’re facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The treasury secretary and his “Government Sachs” cronies are playing Robin Hood in reverse, giving taxpayer money to the banks that created this problem. Why are we bailing them out? “Jail, not bail” should be this generation’s “No taxation without representation.”
Two million Americans have lost their homes. Unemployment continues to rise, while the unemployment insurance is running out. I don’t blame the Republicans; the Democrats also allowed bank lobbyists to chip away at regulations that protected our free market system.
Yet, I do feel hopeful. A change is gonna come. (Insert soulful voice of Otis Redding here.) The fate of all oppressed people, which now includes the U.S. middle class, are tied…
Back to my sueño.
During the past eight years, under the regime of Dr. Evil George Bush, I thought at times of doing a reverse migratory pattern, like a seabird, to head to Cuba for a few years. It might be oppressive, I thought, but the people I encountered in Cuba seemed, in many ways, freer than than those who don’t know they are being manipulated by capitalism. Now that the chapter on the world’s most evil empire is coming to a close, and a man with a vision for equality and peace in going to be prez, we can exhale.