Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What a brave mother we had!

I love movies and since I have been resting in bed for several days now, to calm down the terrible pains of my injured spine --- Netflix and its genial Instant Watch have been keeping me in excellent company.

And last night, after finished seeing a wonderful Czech movie called "All Our Loved Ones", I could not stop my tears. Tears I could not hold, because the tale of this high middle class Jewish Czech family in Prague at the beginning of the Second World War, was a carbon copy of what happened to so many Cuban families when the Revolution took over. And this brought to my heart so many bittersweet memories that I cried tears of satisfaction at being able to look back at a life lived in decency --and tears of pain at reminiscing at so many terrible things.

The resemblances were amazing. The denials, the disbelief, the surprise, and afterwards their desperation at what was happening to them, was so very familiar....In their case the family (a doctor, a renowned violinist, a scientist and their children and elderly parents) were carted to a concentration camp and a horrible death --while for us Cuban refugees we were given the opportunity to start new lives, albeit missing always a vital part: our country and in many cases a complete and united family. Oh yes...We were luckier, much luckier -- since another choice was to stay and try to adapt to a new way of life, directed by Fidel Castro's daily whims, whatever they were...Certain death of the spirit and the quick deterioration of any possible ideals!

But the steps that took us in parallel paths were so very similar. The friends who turned enemies. The mistrust that invaded our day to day. The disbelief at laws nobody could understand. The daily persecution by the members of the Defense of the Revolution Committees. The insults. The humiliations. Even the inventory of our property, spoon by spoon and piece of underwear by piece of underwear, done in our homes, paper and pen in hand, by a member of the Revolutionary Defense Committee when we asked for permission to leave! I was seeing the movie and the faces of disbelief of the family members ---and it was like seeing the stunned faces of my mother and my own uncles and aunts during those horrible early years of the Cuban Revolution.

When the movie ended my tears were bittersweet because they had made me think one more time of the bravery and courage my mother had had when she decided that Leon and I could not grow without personal freedoms and surrounded by such a toxic new society --and we had to leave Cuba.
And one more time -by now millions of them!- I asked myself where did our still beautiful and young mother get her immense valor to take such a huge step? She is in my thoughts like a tropical Joan of Arc battling for her two children and never complaining one single time! And how grateful we are for the bravery that gave us freedom!

What an amazing woman she was

Our mother was so convinced of her ideals and of her concept of right and wrong, that she never wavered, nor doubted her decision. And after fighting the bureaucrats, the government hiennas and all the odds --she finally was able to leave Cuba with 2 adolescents, penniless and without looking back --and she gave us the opportunity of a new life!

And like her --thousands and thousands of Cuban women who were not afraid to start from scratch, forge ahead and become the foundation of their families! Many of her own friends and friends of friends... I feel such respect and love for all of them.

Mami -in her mid forties and so beautiful- worked picking tomatoes in Pompano Beach tomato factories...she baby sat and ironed for 50 cents an hour...she cleaned after and took care of an elderly American woman, whose daughter was an alcoholic....and then she became The Queen of Popcorn working as Candy Girl of a movie theatre in downtown Miami....And she never complained. Not once. Not even when she was assaulted coming home at 11pm from the movie house --at gunpoint!-- and this even became a funny anecdote.

All these memories came to me as a rolling thunderstorm as I was seeing this movie. The feelings so raw and clear...And once more time I was in total awe of our mother and the way she handled the worst moment of our lives. She was brave and at the same time loving and funny, reassuring us every day that things were all right. It was amazing. And looking back, I am afraid I could not have done for my daughter what she did for us. My generation is not as strong. Our beliefs are probably not that defined and resolute. I am definitely not made of the same strong earth...

So, hats off for that generation of elderly Cubans who are still living in exile....The best generation of all!....That of the patriarchs and matriarchs that gave us so much, for the sake of love and freedom --and without asking for anything in return.