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Miami's War of Words

For members of Miami's Cuban-American community, the war with Castro rages on
Jonathan Kandell
From the Print Edition:
Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00

(continued from page 6)

Gonzalo Valdes-Fauli, the 53-year-old group chief executive officer for Latin America Barclays Bank, is another outspoken Cuban-American businessman. "Our politicians are just blinded by the Cuban issue, and it's unfortunate because there is so much for them to do in Miami," he says. "I think it's about time our local government started representing all members of this city." He goes further than Saladrigas on the embargo, urging that it be lifted entirely. "I think Castro is a dehumanizing criminal," says Valdes-Fauli. "But the embargo hasn't worked for [38] years, and it only hurts ordinary Cubans."  

The Valdes-Faulis are among the more prominent Cuban families in Miami. One of Gonzalo's brothers is the mayor of Coral Gables, and another brother and a sister are bank presidents. Gonzalo Valdes-Fauli sits on the boards of the University of Miami and Knight-Ridder, the newspaper chain that owns the Miami Herald. And the family--including generations of lawyers and landowners--was even more distinguished in Cuba, where the first members arrived from Spain more than four centuries ago.  

So, it created quite a stir when the whole clan--the elderly father, Raul Valdes-Fauli, and his children and grandchildren--traveled to Cuba last year for the first time since the older family members fled four decades ago. "I would encourage all Cubans to visit Cuba," says Gonzalo Valdes-Fauli. "I think it's important to know one's heritage, where one came from. And also to know it's time to move on, to get on with our lives over here."  

He then hands me a letter that his daughter, Alexandra, 24, wrote after the trip and which reads in part:   One day I shall walk those same streets with my children and say, 'This is where your great grandparents were married; this was your great grandfather's office; and these are some of the stories he told me when we walked down these streets many years ago....I now understand why my grandfather chose to leave and never look back...By moving to the United States...he gave us the gift of freedom. By taking us to Cuba he has also given us a gift. He gave our Cuban roots context. I understand the longing felt by so many and I cry, not for what Cuba was, but for what Cuba is. How do I thank the man who has shown me what it means to be Cuban and what it means to be American?   Sometimes, from the mouths of babes...  

Jonathan Kandell, a former New York Times correspondent in Latin America, is a freelance journalist based in New York.

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