Monday, March 14, 2016

Which came first ...

Technically, Cuba came first. 

The neighborhood now known as Little Havana 
was originally a lower-middle-class Southern 
and a thriving Jewish neighborhood 
in the 1930s.

The name "Little Havana" emerged in the 1960s 
as the concentration of Cubans in the area grew sharply 
following the fall of the Batista government 
and the immigration of Cuban citizens to the US.

Prior to our Road Scholar flight to Cuba, 
we had a few hours to spend in Florida
so we took a tour of Little Havana.

It was narrated by a self described 
former Cuban government official,
a confidant of Fidel Castro's;
one of his 'golden boys',
named Oscar.

He wouldn't give us his last name,
saying he still feared for his life.

In his telling, 
he had been 'a Cabinet member/a chemistry minister'
and, when he gave Fidel a report he didn't like 
about using chemical warfare,
he was immediately dismissed from Fidel's presence.

Later that night, a friend, a soldier, came to his home
and warned him his death had been ordered;
he and his family needed to flee the country to save their lives
 - which they did.

Castro then gave one of his famous 5 hour speeches, 
ranting about 'the traitor';
Oscar was put on the list of persons who can never return to Cuba  
under any circumstances.

we either had a person in the know driving us around
or a psychotic;
the odds were even;
take your pick.

 Little did I know when I took this picture 
that I'd be meeting the same woman just a few days later,
taking the same picture.
Many members of the Cuban community in Florida don't consider themselves immigrants;
they are Cubans in exile.

One of the history professors who spoke to us in Cuba
said they are one of the few groups in history
who, after 50 years, have still not adapted to,
  or been fully assimilated into,
 the country in which they have chosen to live.

They still live lives that mirror how they were living in Cuba.
They eat the same food,
read the same newspapers,
speak the same language,
have the same circle of acquaintances etc.
Although they have more security and safety than they had in Cuba
the median income for Cubans in Little Havana 
is under $20,000 per year;
not much by US standards.

 It was an interesting few hours - 
and a good foretaste of what was to come.

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