“My parents had always wanted to leave Cuba, but they never dared,” said Luisa, “It’s just the way the Communist Party works.” Luisa’s father had joined the communist party when he was young. At the time he believed that communism was the best thing that could happen to Cuba. However, when he saw the true nature of the Party, he was disappointed. As a member of the Party, though, Luisa’s father had to stay put: “If you try to leave, the Party will take the worst kind of revenge – they kill one of your children.”’
As a young woman, Luisa protested against Fulgencio Batista and the regime he imposed on Cuba. “We wanted him out of power,” said Luisa. She was even arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest against Batista’s government in 1957.
Then a young Cuban revolutionary named Fidel Castro showed up as the hero who would end Batista’s corruption. “We thought there was finally going to be justice in Cuba.” But the Cuban people seemed to be the only ones who thought that way – “Batista had always said that Fidel was a communist, but people were so against him that everyone ignored what he said. No one believed Fidel was a communist. I didn’t believe it.” Luisa and the rest of her family supported Fidel, and were anxious for the changes he promised to bring.
But soon after the Revolution Luisa realized that the situation in the island was not any better than it was under Batista. Luisa and her husband Ramon left Cuba after their wedding in 1960. They left with only $150 each. “Our plan was to come back in three years, because Fidel had promised that in three years no one would recognize the island.” Indeed, in three years Cuba was almost unrecognizable, but the changes were not for the better. A couple of months after they left, their family and friends started losing their houses, their property, and their businesses. “Thank God we never returned,” said Luisa.
Cuba’s situation has changed drastically since the Castro brothers took over. Before Fidel public schools were excellent, graduates from the schools became successful professionals. Public hospitals were highly regarded, with top quality doctors and the health care. Now, people lack basic education. They die for want of medicine and proper care. “There were always poor people in Cuba,” explained Luisa, “but our poor didn’t starve before.”
After Luisa left Cuba, she never returned. “I wouldn’t go back. I mean—I would go back to a free Cuba, but not a Cuba under Castro.” Because of this decision Luisa spent 15 years without seeing her parents. She was finally able to see them as they came back from a government sponsored trip to the Soviet Union. They only met for an hour in an isolated area of the Madrid airport, surrounded by several police officers.
It was to be expected. “That is how Fidel has ruled – by inflicting terror in the people and controlling every aspect of their lives. Even who they relate to and what they say.”
“We read all of the communist theory. We believed in it. But communism does not work,” said Luisa.
“Communism takes over everything,” explained Ramon, Luisa’s husband. In Cuba the communist government took over businesses, both national and foreign. They eliminated privacy. They took away the people’s means of survival. And above all, they took away individual freedom. “If there were freedom in Cuba and if everyone could express themselves, the government wouldn’t last an instant. To get rid of communism’s oppression, liberty is the essential solution.”