Each year I get to celebrate Independence Day twice. On June 30 I celebrate my independence day and on July 4 I celebrate America’s. This year is special, because it marks the 40th anniversary of my independence.
On June 30, 1968, I escaped Communist Cuba and a few months later I was in the United States to stay. That I happened to arrive in Richmond on Thanksgiving Day is just part of the story, but I digress.
I’ve thought a lot about the anniversary this year. The election-year rhetoric has made me think a lot about Cuba and what transpired there. In the late 1950s, most Cubans thought Cuba needed a change, and they were right. So when a young leader came along, every Cuban was at least receptive.
When the young leader spoke eloquently and passionately and denounced the old system, the press fell in love with him. They never questioned who his friends were or what he really believed in. When he said he would help the farmers and the poor and bring free medical care and education to all, everyone followed. When he said he would bring justice and equality to all, everyone said “Praise the Lord.” And when the young leader said, “I will be for change and I’ll bring you change,” everyone yelled, “Viva Fidel!”
But nobody asked about the change, so by the time the executioner’s guns went silent the people’s guns had been taken away. By the time everyone was equal, they were equally poor, hungry, and oppressed. By the time everyone received their free education it was worth nothing. By the time the press noticed, it was too late, because they were now working for him. By the time the change was finally implemented Cuba had been knocked down a couple of notches to Third-World status. By the time the change was over more than a million people had taken to boats, rafts, and inner tubes. You can call those who made it ashore anywhere else in the world the most fortunate Cubans. And now I’m back to the beginning of my story.
Luckily, we would never fall in America for a young leader who promised change without asking, what change? How will you carry it out? What will it cost America?
Manuel Alvarez Jr. Sandy Hook.
Letter to the Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch on July 7, 2008
And a derivative work: the Youtube video.