A Mother Separated From Her Child In Havana

A Mother Separated From Her Child In Havana

Written by Michelle Marie Writes on https://medium.com/@michellemariewrites  

Image posted by DamianPalente on Instagram of a Cuban man in exile attending the World Baseball Classic wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Soy libre mama, pero te extrano’ or ‘Mom, I am free but I miss you.
Image posted by @DamianPalante on Instagram

Forced Family Separation is a Crime Against Humanity

This shirt was just one of the thousands of t-shirts proudly worn by game spectators with similar messages on that game day. Most if not all the messages expressed at this game directly opposed the Cuban government‘s repression of its people and in particular, the thousands of political prisoners in Cuba’s jails right now.

At the recent 2023 Baseball World Classic semi-final game in which the USA played and defeated Cuba in Miami, Florida, this t-shirt (shown above) was proudly worn by a spectator in silent protest against the communist Cuban government.

The man wearing the t-shirt is a Cuban immigrant in the U.S. named Dayron García Gutierrez, whose story is told in this video. The T-shirt’s message in Spanish reads:

“Soy Libre Mamá pero te extraño.” Dayron

(Mom, I am free but I miss you).”

The shirt was a reminder to me of this very tragic fact about Cuba's revolution. Among every list of Castro’s greatest crimes committed against the Cuban people appears this one: The Forced Separation of Families. This one crime against humanity has affected and continues to affect every single Cuban family since 1959. Human Rights Watch reported this statement in a 2005 report titled Families Torn Apart The High Cost of U.S. and Cuban Travel Restrictions:

In my opinion, the Cuban govt. exercises zero remorse or empathy for the Cuban people through their actions and decisions that cause Cuban mothers to separate from their children.   

Cuba routinely refuses to grant its citizens permission to leave their country and often denies those who have left permission to return. These restrictions have resulted in the involuntary separation of many Cuban families, violating the rights of children to be with their parents. (Human Rights Watch, 2005)

Prior to Castro, the Cuban people were free to travel to any place in the world they so desired. For centuries Cuba was historically a country of immigration. Since 1959, it has been and continues to be, at record numbers, a country of emigration.

Emigration: The act of leaving one’s own country to settle permanently in another; moving abroad.

Immigration: The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.

My Family’s Forced Separation Story

For Cubans, the choice to leave Cuba after 1959, if they were lucky enough to emigrate, came with a huge sacrifice. For my grandparents, it meant they would never see their siblings again, though they were unaware of that at the time.

For the first few years of my father’s schooling — and during the Batista era — my grandparents lived in the U.S. and visited their other home and family in Cuba, annually. The reason for their annual visit was to renew my grandmother’s teaching license.

In 1959, on one of their annual visits, the Cuban govt. prohibited my grandmother’s return home to Florida. The new Revolutionary government had denied my grandmother’s visa while approving her husband’s and son’s visas.

As a certified teacher, my grandmother was deemed “a professional” by the new Cuban govt and therefore considered a commodity belonging to the Cuban govt. Her college education and subsequent teacher certification had cost her her freedom and left her at the mercy of a new, ruthless, and even more corrupt government without a visa to return to the US.

My family’s fate would have turned out differently had they not bravely taken matters into their own hands. Five long years after their entrapment, a fake visa freed my grandmother without separating the family unit.

Party Over Family Values

What I find most telling about my family’s story is this theme commonly witnessed over Cuba’s 64-year Revolution of the forced separation of families. The government’s deliberate and insensitive decisions over its people since 1959 have forced many mothers and fathers to separate from their children, indefinitely. Over the course of 64 years, many mothers and fathers never saw their children again. Castro’s communist revolution encourages the destruction of the nuclear Cuban family.

We saw this imposed upon the families of the Pedro Pan children. Parents were not allowed to leave the country with their children. Let’s be clear, it was the Cuban government that prohibited those parents from leaving the country; some parents were never allowed to leave Cuba. Some parents never saw their children again.

While today many recent Cuban arrivals travel to Cuba regularly to visit their parents and grandparents, even from the U.S., that was not the case for most of the Revolution’s 64-year history. And not all Cubans can visit either. Visits are only allowed for Cubans not targeted by the Cuban government.

The problem is the Cuban government discriminates more against some than others for the same alleged crimes. Targeted harassment is often directed at Cubans whose kin were and/or are political prisoners.

Any expression at all of any resistance — a thought, idea, or belief — that directly opposes the position of the Cuban government is their only crime, for which they are sentenced to decades of prison time.

Image posted by/of Norges Rodriguez on Instagram of Norges at the World Baseball Classic semifinals between USA and Cuba wearing a t-shirt that reads freedom or libertad for Chadrian Vila Sequin

Image posted by/of Norges Rodriguez on Instagram

It's Not Political. It is Criminal. 

These shirts were just one of t. Ithe thousands of t-shirts proudly worn by game spectators with similar messages on that game day. Most if not all the messages expressed at this game directly opposed the Cuban government‘s repression of its people and in particular, the thousands of political prisoners in Cuba’s jails right now.

The Marlins attempted to deny ticket holders from entering the publicly owned stadium with their t-shirts and compliant banners donning these messages, alluding to their political nature (MLB News on Marca.com). One very popular message that day was the title of the new 2021 freedom anthem, “Patria Y Vida,” and the Grammy Award-winning song.

Their policy clearly violated the attendees’ first amendment constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression of many in attendance. Needless to say, their policy held very little clout on that day against these many Cubans who had escaped the wrath of Cuba’s communist regime to have such rights.

Whether or not t-shirts and banners had been allowed to enter, there was no escaping the messages they had tried to ban. The stadium continuously echoed, “Patria y Vida! Patria y Vida! Patria y Vida!” as shown in this video.

Pitted Brother Against Brother

But the Dayron’s message reminds me of the sad reality that Cubans still face today — the forced separation of families that is imposed upon them by the Cuban govt.

Today, many of Cuba’s younger generations escape the island to find better lives abroad, where they will have the opportunity to make money to send to their parents and grandparents in Cuba via remittances.

These monetary gifts are heavily taxed by the Cuban government, so much so that the monies they take from Cuban exiles via remittances is among their largest source of revenue. The Cuban government makes more money off their exiles than they generate from tourism. As such, the regime financially benefits from their imposed policies that force the Cuban people to separate from their families.

This theme of forced separation of families is described by fellow Medium Writer Mario López-Goicoechea, a Cuban writer, author, and artist living in London, in his proud Instagram post of a #SOSCuba protest.

Proud not only of the #Cubans who demonstrated peacefully outside the Houses of Parliament today, but also of the non-Cubans who joined us and listened to us.

Cuba belongs to all Cubans. Fidel divided us, pitted brother against brother and sister against sister. It’s up to us to reclaim our “Cubanness”. That which makes us who we are, a nation that begot Maceo, Martí and Mariana.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

#SOSCuba #PatriayVida (Mario López-Goicoechea).

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido translates in English to The people united can never be defeated.

Forced Separation of Families 

The Forced Separation of Families is perhaps the Cuban government’s greatest crime against the Cuban people. Decades of unnecessary suffering, heartbreak, and pain that have resulted from this forced separation of Cuban families is a pain that is inherited by every Cuban child and grandchild in the exile community.

For the people to remain controlled by an authoritarian regime, as is the Cuban government, the regime relies on their imposition of the division of families. They separate families with their encouraged acts of repudiation, their repressive laws that prohibit the expression of any thought or idea that opposes the Cuban regime, and the constant threat of persecution.

This is one of many reasons why the Cubans in exile today cannot stay silent. Their tireless fight for freedom and liberty for Cuba is not only their birthright but a way to honor the sacrifices endured by the Cuban people so that their future generations can live, think, create, and write freely,

Thank you for reading my latest #SOSCuba story. Please feel free to read my other stories to learn more about the Cuban plight in their flight for freedom. 


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