Having read your article several times, I sense no hostility toward the Cuban-American community for the simple reason that we are not mentioned once. Our experiences, our loss, our pain is not documented in so much as a footnote. I choose to believe that you have no malicious intentions toward us. You probably did not foresee that our reaction to Castro’s death and your letter would be so visceral, much less understand its origin. Indeed, you probably know comparatively little about us. You acted without considering the repercussions that your choices would have on a community of two million people. And that is a textbook example of privilege.
This letter is not a history lesson, so I will not correct the misinformed assertions you made about Fidel Castro’s life or acts. Nor will I berate you for presenting those inaccuracies as fact. I just wish to provide some context on my community.
Cuban-Americans are by no means a monolithic group. We are segmented by race, date of arrival, socio-economic standing, “Americanization,” political affiliation, etc. There is, however, one unifying experience that cuts across our divisions and binds us all: pain. The architect of that suffering was Fidel Castro. Practically every family—and this is not hyperbole—has a member who was jailed or killed on Castro’s orders. We lost homes, freedoms, friends, family, businesses, and a way of life. Those who were born in the U.S. lost their birthright to live freely in the land of our ancestors. We were uprooted and thrown (many of us, quite literally) onto the shores of a foreign country with naught but our names. This is why your lionization of a brutal man affects us. This is why some Cuban-Americans are forswearing your cause forever.
Perhaps you believe you can afford to ignore the grievances we have with your letter. You would not be the first. On a purely pragmatic level, we are a geographically isolated community, though we have a disproportionate number of congresspersons in both parties who wield considerable clout. Moreover, 55,000 of us arrive from Cuba while many more born in this country every year.
Nevertheless, you should not listen to us because of the political ramifications of your actions. You should do so because you claim to stand for equal respect afforded to all communities. Should you wish to learn more, consider me a resource. I am happy to teach you our experiences. If you ignore us once again, you will be practicing the same hypocrisy you are fighting so hard to defeat.
Bobby D. Foster