Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

01 de Mayo del 2000

WHY CUBAN AMERICANS ACT THE WAY THEY DO By Alba Herrera Rohdes

Dear Asbury Park Press and Readers:

As some of you know, I've been very involved in the Elian saga since its inception. My involvement came from my Cuban roots. Elian woke up in me my Cubanness, if you will, and brought forward many memories I had buried long ago, when my family left my country in search of freedom and a better life in this great country, the United States.

I'm writing now, because it saddens me to see how Cuban-Americans are being portrayed by the media and how the American public is seeing this group in an unfavorable light. I'd like to shed some light, if I may, to why Cubans act the way we do. Maybe if you can see it from our eyes, you can understand us better, and even sympathize with us.

Unlike most immigrants to this country, Cubans started coming here, 40 years ago, thinking that we would soon be back in our country. We never wanted to emigrate. We wanted to live in freedom. It seemed so preposterous that Castro had taken power, that we thought, that once the Cuban people and the world would see Castro for what he is, a despot, and a dictator, that his days would be numbered. But 41 years later, Castro is still there and Cuba is still devoid of freedom and the basic necessities of life.

Looking back now at the Elian situation, maybe it would have been better, if we, Cuban-Americans, would not have made such a big deal of the whole situation. Maybe we shouldn't have reacted to Castro as we did. It seems, that we are constantly doing this. Castro knew that by getting involved in the Elian affair, that that would irk the Cuban-American community, take heat away from the real problems of Cuba and make us look like a bunch of fanatics who can't get over the fact that he won. He hasn't being in power for 41 years for nothing. He is very astute and he is also Cuban. He knows what makes us tick. He threw in the angler and we bit. And boy how we bit!

But why did we bite? Because Elian was a symbol for all us who had to leave Cuba by force. For it was either leave in search of freedom, or stay and wait for death, for there is no life in Cuba. We saw in Elian's mother the ultimate sacrifice a parent makes to try to give a better life for his/her child. We wanted to honor that sacrifice. We didn't want Fidel to once again control our lives as he has been doing for almost half a century. Elian represented freedom, hope. If we reacted they way we did, we did it out love for a child, not hate toward a man. We wanted to be the voice of an innocent child who had no voice.

We, Cuban-Americans, having experienced oppression and repression, understand how it is that American see the Elian saga as the right of the father to be with his child. To most Americans, Elian is a simple issue of parental rights. To Cubans, who know that parental rights as they are understood in this country do not exist in Cuba, for it is the government of Cuba who hold custody of all Cuban children (check out Cuban Constitution of 1992), our sole motivation was the protection of this child. Most of you are probably relieved that Elian no longer is the main piece of news on television. The issue was resolved. Elian was returned to his father and will soon be back in Cuba. Let's move on. What Americans will not see is how Elian will live in Cuba. They will not see how Elian, once back, will be indoctrinated in the Leninist-Marxist ideal, as required by the Cuban Code of the Child. They will not hear how Elian's mother will be vilified and called a traitor. They will not see how Elian, at age 11 will be sent to a countryside school with or without Juan Miguel's permission to live among other 11 years olds and work for free in the agricultural fields of Cuba with little or no adult supervision. They will not see how he will only be allowed to go home 3 times a month to be with his family, that is, if transportation and gasoline are available. They will not hear how at age 16 he will be conscripted in Cuba's armed forces facing the possibility of being exported to carry out Cuba's guerrilla warfare in other parts of the world. They will not see, that when Elian is no longer useful to Castro in his propaganda war, he will be forgotten, just like Hollywood child stars are forgotten and thrown aside in this country. They will not see a child that has been heavily traumatized and confused not knowing who is telling the truth and what is the true meaning of liberty, freedom, and family unity. They will not see a boy deprived of the right to have a mind of his own, to develop his own personality. They will not see that this child was returned to "la patria" (fatherland) and not to the father.

I know it confuses Americans when they see Cuban-Americans waving Cuban flags. Try to understand that to us the Cuban flag does not represent Castro's Cuba, but the Cuba we all dream about: a free, sovereign and democratic one. Cubans came to this country because we love America. We embrace everything that America stands for, liberty, freedom, democracy, the right to the pursuit of happiness. It pains us when we see these freedom that so many Americans have died for start to erode. We know what is like not to live in freedom. We don't want that to happen here. When we see US Marshalls storming an unarmed house and pointing a gun at an innocent child, we know that the U.S. Department of Justice is taking the law into its own hand and that they are not allowing for due process to take place. When we see the government trying to break up Microsoft, even though it has not proven how this will benefit the American public, we see how the strong arm of the government is getting involved in the private and entrepreneurial lives of Americans. When we see the First Lady of this country trying to socialize the health care system, taking away from the people the right to make their own healthcare decisions, we see one more right taken away. This is the first step, next they'll socialize education, employment, television and the media. When we see the political correctness in which we live, where is open season on all white-males, on all conservatives, on religious groups, on all Cuban-Americans, but other groups are protected, we see the erosion of freedom of speech. When we hear the president of the U.S. trying to define the meaning of the word "is", we see a man making a mockery of everything America stands for. When in the name of stopping violence, we try to deny the rights of Americans to bear arms, yet the government points an automatic weapon at a child to settle a family dispute, we see how they are trying to destroy the American Constitution.

This is why we Cuban-Americans are so passionate about the Elian case. This is why we fight so hard to protect the rights of this child to be heard in court and to let the courts decide what is in the best interest of this child. For this is why we came to this country. Because this country is a country of laws that are for the most part just laws. This is not a country where disputes are settled at gunpoint. We are not only fighting for Elian, we are fighting to protect the rights of all Americans, rights that little by little are being eroded by special interest groups in our government.

Sincerely,

Alba Herrera-Rohdes
Cuban-American, very proud to have chosen to be an American
arohdes@aol.com


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