A Tale Of Two Fidels

Fidel Castro is dead. The man, who overthrew the American-backed Batista regime and became "El Comandante", is no more. Cubans abroad and on the island are emotional. This shit is complicated. It's about black and white. The poor and the rich. What Cuba was and what it is today.

Fidel Castro was not a perfect man nor leader by any means. But what leader is? When he came into power initially, he improved the lives of the people who looked like me and my family. La gente negra. The black citizens of Cuba suffered immensely under Batista's reign. Slavery ended in Cuba on Oct. 7, 1886 but life for blacks was still oppressive as hell. For the most part- they were uneducated, didn't own property and were the heels of white Cubans and white Americans alike. Under Castro's reign, black people became doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers and education of Cuba's citizens was mandatory and everyone had property. In fact, the first home Fidel confiscated under the new dictatorship was his parents.

I am not so naive to believe that Castro's inclusion of black diasporans and Africans was because of his overwhelming love for people of color. Let's be honest here. However, he was intelligent enough to realize that creating an alliance with the most marginalized people in the world would be beneficial to him. It was a win- win situation for the most part.

Again- people who look like me.

He was the first in line to send doctors and builders to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Castro, additionally, offered construction supplies and medical assistance  to the many displaced black folks after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Bush refused to accept the offer of aid. Black Americans can go to medical school for free in Cuba. He granted Assata Shakur asylum. Not even President Obama has done this.

I admired this Fidel as many Black Americans and Africans  do.

With that said, imagine my anger and outrage when I saw Cubans in Miami dancing and celebrating in the streets upon learning of Castro's death. Los gusanos (typically Cubans of Spanish descent who defected from Cuba when Batista was overthrown) had their feet on the necks of black Cubans pre-Castro.  Their families profited from black bodies. Frankly speaking, these same Cubans are only interested in blackness when they are practicing the religion of my ancestors. Still profiting from black bodies.

There are nuances and intricacies throughout his dictatorship which leave me torn. I know that he did many good things for black people globally. I, also, know he was a monster and that his death squads were no joke.

Many people were killed by his secret police in Cuba. I am very aware that black Cubans suffer indiscriminately more than white Cubans, even now, when the playing field was supposedly leveled. “Una Cuba, un solo pueblo” is an outright lie. Siendo una cubana americana negra, entiendo bien que la justicia y la tranquilidad son cosas que todavia nos evitan.

I can't hate a man who cared about black people when nobody else did. However, I can't love a man who killed innocent people, simply, because they wanted freedom. I will not romanticize him nor will I be a hypocrite como los gusanos and speak of him like he is Hitler. The same people which such one-sided criticisms flow from their lips are the same people who say nothing when blacks here in this country are brutalized and killed by the police. They fully support a country whose history details a murderous, bloody past while launching its own terrorist reign on people from around the world. And these Cubans,now, ignore a country which has, idly, stood by while blacks globally continue to be oppressed and murdered all in the name of freedom. Where is their outrage now?

Fidel Castro, whether loved or hated, was a pivotal part of history. His reign brought out the best and worst in people and he will never be forgotten.

¡Que Viva La Revolución! Y pa'lante mi gente negra!

Que en paz descanse, El Comandante.