Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99
(continued from page 4)
My husband, Felix Ramirez-Seiijas, has been a subscriber to your magazine practically from its beginnings. I had always mentioned to him that I was concerned with the articles of political propaganda in favor of the regime dominating our country; nevertheless, he would always excuse the magazine. When you came out with Fidel Castro on the cover, I was furious, and he managed to excuse the magazine once more. However, now with your June 1999 issue, you have reached the limit of what any decent political immigrant can tolerate. Consequently, we have canceled our subscription, and two others that we had given as gifts as well.
You begin your editor's note by saying that the issue is not about politics, and yet that is exactly what you proceed to write about. You say that the embargo used to be justified during the Cold War, but that that's not true today, that what is true is the animosity in the Cuban-American community towards the "president," whom I prefer calling "dictator" Fidel Castro. You add that the hostility is not only aimed at Castro's ideology, but at issues such as the Cuban government's seizure of homes, businesses and properties.
As one of those Cuban-Americans, I want to clarify for you that that is precisely not the issue. I came out of Cuba at the age of 13, and we were not rich, we simply belonged to the lower middle class, as the majority of the Cubans did back in 1959. We did give up everything we had to find refuge and freedom in this country, with only a change of clothes in our bags. I was even denied a miserable $20 award I had won in a middle school math competition, because I was not a communist and was awaiting my turn to leave the country.
Although my family was one of the lucky ones, lucky in the sense that we did not have a family member imprisoned or dead by the firing squad, many Cuban families did and still do. I remember what it was like living for eight years under a communist regime: the fear, persecution, frustration and most of all the separation of the thousands of Cuban families. I consider the latter to be Fidel Castro's worst crime and one not likely to be forgotten. You never forget the tears of your father crying over his mother's death and not being able to go to her death bed or funeral, the suffering of the Cuban people, the jails full of young Cubans, the destruction of our island, the hundreds dead by the firing squads, the women and children who died in the "March 13th tugboat massacre," the four pilots of Brothers to the Rescue, etc.... this list could be endless.
We might not have been rich then, but we have worked hard and thanks to our persistence, determination, and to God, we are rich now and we are awaiting and fighting in every way we can to liberate our island and go rebuild it. Most of all, we are rich in dignity and morals, and that is something, Mr. Shanken, that I think you lack a lot. You have provided a platform in your magazine to decadent political rats like Raul Castro and Ricardo Alarcon, allowing then to write about their pathetic excuses for a revolution in ruins; surprisingly, the only opposing view is the one from Sen. Jesse Helms. Where are the articles from the dissidents? Did you visit any? As I can see, all you show in your "tourist guide" are the numerous kinds of tourist traps that the dictator has created in the island. Do you show the jails? Have you ever visited one? Do you show the faces of the hunger-stricken Cubans or the thousands of rafters that risk their lives every day? I wonder why they are leaving, Mr. Shanken? No, you took the best photographers with their sophisticated cameras to take pictures and glamorize this "paradise"; yes, it used to be a paradise, it used to be many things. Now, all that is left is the natural beauty, but it is a country in ruins.
I want to end this by answering the question that you propose on the cover of your magazine. "Is it time to end the embargo?" No, Mr. Shanken, but I will tell you what it's time to do. It is time for an old and failed dictator to step down, free all the political prisoners, and hold free elections in Cuba. Only then will Cuba be the country that all the Cubans wish for and deserve, and the paradise that tourists will truly enjoy: a free country again.
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