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An Interview with Ernesto Padilla

A conversation with Ernesto Padilla, owner of Miami's Padilla Cigar Co.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

(continued from page 1)

A: At times they would make it up. They would have face-offs. It's still done in Pinar del Río.

Q: Your father's writing got him in trouble with the government.

A: In 1959, my dad was living in Manhattan, a professor of languages at Berlitz, and then he traveled throughout Europe and met intellectuals like Albert Camus, Sartre, people who were interested in seeing if the [communist] experiment was going to work in Cuba. Fidel's thing was to say "take the easy road. We'll let you write—just don't touch politics." Fidel was using writers to create propaganda. But my father started seeing the repression, the sadness. Socialism provides an equal amount of sadness for everyone—it provides shelter, but at what cost? He was a liberal thinker, but he also understood the dangers of what his country was facing. Like Shakespeare said, the pen is mightier than the sword. He spoke out, in poetic form. My dad wrote this book called Fuero del Juego [Out of the Game], and he was briefly imprisoned. And he was under house arrest from 1972 to 1980.

Q: I saw The New York Times articles—he was also tortured?

A: Yeah, I talked to him about that.

Q: That must have been a very tough conversation.

A: He spoke about what it was like to one day have the police come to your door, and take you and your wife prisoner. To be in a cell and hear the tape of your wife being interrogated. They inject you, they try to intimidate you. There was torture, your basic beating up, but for the most part he was fortunate—he didn't spend a long time in jail. They made a mistake. They wanted him to retract what he had said. Well, you don't give a writer the ability to do that because he's going to use the words [against you]. This was in 1971, and it was videotaped. It was called The Padilla Affair. He spoke out in such a way, he made a parody of it. And they were so into their ideology, they didn't see it. It was a message from a guy who almost had a gun to his head. Soldiers are easy to take out. But how do you take someone out who isn't trying to shoot you? When you come unarmed, what threat are you?

Q: How did you get out of Cuba?

A: I came directly to the States; I had special permission. My father had to stay behind. I remember coming to Miami, and meeting my grandparents. They had left in the '60s.

Q: How old were you?


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