My Two Birthdays
Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Perhaps not many people would believe me if I said I celebrate two birthdays, having been born twice. My first birthday is June 28, 1937, the date I arrived in this world, in a sad, poverty-ridden country where thousands of children died every year of preventable and curable diseases and where one had to walk dozens – sometimes hundreds – of miles to see a doctor, a journey many sick people did not survive.
I was born in a country where, in order to secure a bed at a hospital, one had to have a recommendation from a politician, to whom one had to promise the family’s vote at the next elections. It wasn’t enough to be sick and in need of admittance, what mattered was one’s political commitment.
It was a country where thousands of children were denied access to education, even though there were around 10,000 teachers out of work, and 30 percent of the population was illiterate.
My life started in a country where the immense majority of peasants did not own the land they worked, had to pay a rent for it and had no guarantee of being able to sell their products; a country where the tens of thousands of farm workers in the countryside only had work three months out of the year, during the sugar harvest. The rest of the year was known as “dead time.” The name says it all.
I was born in a country where the mafia and salaried thugs took the streets or gunned each other down, making life very unsafe for the population; a country where supposedly democratic governments were constantly threatened by coups, particularly when there was any chance that a leader concerned with the humblest could come into power. This is what happened in 1952, when Eduardo Chivas, with his slogan of “shame instead of money,” had every chance of winning the elections. The US embassy, however, had other plans and offered Fulgencio Batista support for his coup. Batista remained in power for seven years, in which time the country was drowned by a wave of murders, torture and disappearances that kept citizens in the grip of fear.
My second birthday – the day I feel I was born once again – is January 1, 1959. To arrive at my home town dressed in olive green, armed, with a three-month beard, to be able to walk around day or night without any kind of fear, was in and of itself like being born again, in a happy and hopeful country this time around.
The changes that took place in the months and years that followed more than justified the joy and hope of the first days of the revolution.
The progress achieved since in terms of health, education, culture and sports, for Cuba and many other countries, has resulted in a country that is completely different from the country I was born in and lived in for 21 years.
Today, we have a new country in which peasants own the land they work, where the poverty that scourged the countryside of all has disappeared. Today, doctors are everywhere, a few blocks away, in both the countryside and city. Cuba’s health system guarantees medical attention, from primary to hospital care, in modern facilities built and equipped by the revolutionary government. Free, top-quality education at all levels and of every kind contrasts starkly with the situation we had before, when us poor could not even dream of enrolling in university or of enjoying culture or sports. I arrived at a completely different country on January 1st, 1959. This is the reason I celebrate two birthdays.
41 thoughts on “My Two Birthdays”
I bet you haven’t tried “Roof Rabbit Ajiaco” a specialty of the Periodo Especial…
There are so many inaccuracies in your comments in general and this comment is no exception. Cuba did NOT cause the release of Nelson Mandela. At best, according to Mandela himself, their involvement in Angola contributed to the political calculus, as did worldwide economic sanctions. Mandela was called a Terrorist for leading terrorist activities against the South African apartheid regime. The ANC cause was just but examples like setting black collaborators on fire in car tire tacks is terrorism. The US did not “arm” the South African army. Certainly not to the extent that the Soviets armed Castro’s army. Yes, I am quite familiar with these independence struggles in southern Africa. Apparently you lack all the facts. You should also read up on how these socialist – influenced countries are doing today. In nearly every case, where Cuba went, more poverty and political repression followed.
Which other country in the world sends Medical Brigades to the remotest parts of the world to offer humanitarian assistance to the inhabitants of countries which have suffrerd natura or other disasters? Moses, did you know that it was because of the 300,000 Cuban soldiers and 50,000 Internationalists why Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of incarceration for fighting for the right of the majority of Black people in South Africa, under the Apartheid system to be able to vote> Mandela was deemed a Terrorist for fighting for their right to vote, You see Moses, The multinationals were reaping astronomical profits from the backs of the oppressed people of South Africa. For Mandela to be released, Cuba had to defeat the South African Army which was believed to be invincible and which was armed by America. The defeat of the South African Army resulted in the Independence of Nambia and Angola; Cubaans have done what no first world country has ever done. Where were the Human Rights defenders then? Do you really see the hypocricy or America over the Most tortuos, horrendous dictatortship in the whole of the world? Did you know about this Moses? Kindly answer me correctly!!
Ummm always thought it was Che, but I guess it’s splitting hairs to differentiate.
Here is a link to the reality of Che’s belief structure. Scary reading. Unfortunately most don’t know of this reality, what he would have like to impose on the world if he could .
Fidel and Raul are dictators. That’s not opinion, it’s a fact.
It was Fidel, but “same difference”.
I was a bit older when I came over. Living in Miami I continued to be surrounded by Cuban culture. Thankfuly Miami has served as a storehouse of our culture, which includes Cuban cuisine, much of which is lost in today’s Cuba.
Vaca Frita? Oh my god, absolutely fantastic! Or my favorite, Ropa Vieja….Try finding that in Cuba, it’s chicken, chicken and more chicken!
Wasn’t it Che, who when asked if Cuba was a dictatorship replied. (I’m paraphrasing) ” yes, so what’s so bad about a dictatorship?”
Che’s “New Man” idea, of which Castro approved, was a way to create a docile population.
Thanks for the info, I’ll keep it in mind, but I already knew you were Cuban, I C, and I don’t know how much personal experience you had in Cuba, but my sister came to the USA at age 8 and she has no idea of who we are culturally and what we have gone through. Even though she speaks Cuban Spanish fluently, she is much more comfortable in English. She eats salads and gringo-made, Latino style, prepared foods: from the freezer to the microwave to the table. Vaca Frita…are you kidding?
Like yours is about Fidel y Raúl? I couldn’t be that bad…
Oye babalu, I was born in Cuba, so I am well familiar with its reality. And I don’t need to be told by an armchair Bolshovik about the “dignity” of the Cuban people, a people who have been held under the boot of Castro for over half a century! And NO one longs for Batista, that was a 1950’s reality. But almost 60 years later defenders of Castro are still forced to bring out his long dead corps to beat up on because they have nothing else to hang their hat on!
As I understand it he is married to a Cuban, has lived in Cuba, and goes to Cubra regularly to visit and provide support for his In-laws. So you could say he writes from personal experience.
I was born in Cuba, have relatives who are still in Cuba, and visit on occasion. So you could say I write from personal experience as well.
By their own admission, the Castros are dictators yet you worship them. That says a lot about you.
He is certainly entitled to an opinion. However given the circumstances involved in the rupture of their relationship, his opinion is no doubt negatively biased.
I have lived in Cuba and I have a Cuban family. The Castros are very well known. They are public figures with 56 years of tyrannical rule over an unarmed Cuban people.
So it is unfair for you to base your opinion of Fidel and Raúl based on the claptrap the USA media puts out unless you have met them, but then you are the propagandist here (4000+ submissions and counting…). How many times have you been to Cuba and when? Please answer or neither me nor any fair minded person who reads this will pay anymore attention to your continuous, obsessive diatribe; if anyone still does…
Yes I C, you have asked for my complete contempt and that of those fair minded people who read this forum.
What about what her former Italian translator writes about her ?
“Take a hike” LOL …. I haven’t asked you for anything!
Thank you for your vote of confidence Kennedy, like you I also believe that Moses, Informed C and Griffin would benefit by visiting Cuba; in fact, I think Informed C might actually live in Cuba although Cuban-Americans can be as paranoid as he is trying to hide his identity. By now everybody in this forum knows a lot about me: where I’m from in Cuba, my approximate age, where I live now, what I do, how many kids/g.kids I have, where I grew up and how I got this way, even when I left Cuba and when I started to return. I’m simply not afraid to confront these nay-sayers and propagandists because I have nothing to hide and whatever I say here, I will repeat to anyone who cares to listen.
That is my face on my photo next to “Fidel” with 3 Chinook salmon (commie-red fish) of over 25 pounds each, which I sent to my extreme right-wing brother in response to him sending me a newspaper photo of his USA Congressman and him holding the winning mini-trophy and 5 lb small-mouth bass he won the derby with. I really appreciate your support in unmasking and confronting these constant poo-pooers and cynics that cannot accept when they and their “cause” have been defeated. Yesterday came the official announcement of the opening of embassies and full diplomatic recognition between Cuba and the USA, and soon the Blockade will be History…We have won!
FOOD and NEWSPAPERS? In the “Good ol’ days” there was no food for many Cubans, most could not read the newspapers nor lived in buildings but in shacks and bohíos with no roads, no running water or sanitation or schools or hospitals or future or pride. To blame the Revolutionary Government for our present poverty is to ignore the fall of the Soviets on one hand, and the Blockade, the biological warfare and the acts of terrorism and sabotage the USA has perpetrated against our People since then. You are the one with little credibility here…Get a hobby or something, you are going to give yourself a coronary and then blame Fidel and Raúl for it.
Monseigneur Gomez, My grandmother had this saying,”There in none so blind like he who cannot see.” Moses and Informed are persons who are blind to the truth. My solemn belief is that they long for the glory days when Cuba was the play ground for the American rich and the ordinary Cuban was their hewers of wood and drawers of water. They just cannot cope with the fact that the ordinaru Cubans have broken out of their bondage and are now the highest educated people in the world. They believe that, because the economic embargo is being shattered that the Cuban people would run forward with open arms,embrace the Americans and reimpose the days of Batista of degradation, inhumanity,insecurity, indignity. Would the Cubans stave off the Bay of Pigs invasion, would they defend the Revolution in the 1962 Missile crisis, would the Cubans endure the hardships the economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union, would the Cuban Five sacrifice 16 years of their lives in US prisons if there was nothing in the Revolution to defend? If the Revolution did not bring meaning to their lives? Moses and informed need to visit Cuba and to experience the warmth, the love, the serenity, the genuineness of the country and its people. Perhaps they are afraid to do so, for fear of never returning to the unfriendly, uncaring, unsecured place that America is? You have shown yourself to be a humanitarian. You not only Talk the Talk, you Walk the Walk. A man of CONVICTION! A man who lives his conviction!
Amen Brother, she wrote our foundation years ago for support and I told her the same thing I tell Moses, Informed Consent and Griff in these pages: Take a Hike!
What? If you had stayed in Cuba, you would be just another old guy trying to live on about 10 dollars a month, selling ‘jabas’, single cigarettes and mani (peanuts) in paper cones on the street. That’s what Fidel and Raul did for you.
Who calls Cuba a paradise? Do you read Havana Times? Lots of your fellow sycophants worship at Castros’ alter and claim Cuba as a mecca for health care, education, biotechnology, etc. Have you read John Goodrich’s drivel regarding Cuba’s Poder Popular or Monseigneur Gómezz babble on about how wonderful life is in Cuba. I will concede that the word “paradise” is cliche. I am a better writer than that. But these guys and a handful more really believe that crap they write. Unless you know Sra. Sánchez personally, it is unfair to base your opinion of her based on the claptrap the Castros write about her.
Elio is unchallenged in his recounting of events that took place in his personal life both before and after 1959. Where he loses credibility is when he, like you, chooses to pretend that Castro has improved Cuba. Buildings did not fall down and kill people as frequently before 1959 as they do today. Cubans enjoyed a wide variety of newspapers and food shortages were rare. Castro’s revolution simply made everyone poor.
Let me get this straight, your parents, fearing an attack on Cuba by the Unites States, fled to…..the United States??? Oh that’s rich! Looks like your parents have more brains than you do.
Jeez Man! Read the article, no sense trying to convince you but it demonstrates how Cuba’s Revolution has improved the lives of all Cubans from what it used to be before 1959.
I believe what I write and I choose to live in Canada to reap the benefits of 45 years on the job of building this nation to what it is today. I go to Cuba when I want to make my contribution and recharge the cultural batteries. And it was the USA who used to steal the material and spiritual wealth of our country before Fidel and Raúl brought it all back home.
I totally agree with you, Moses (I thought I’d never say that), about Judas. If it’s true he existed, he was a human being who might have taken part in a divinely inspired plan of some sort or other that took place a long, long time ago resulting in the death by crucifixion of another individual (J.C.) on which the most corrupt, totalitarian, predatory, violent and spiritually toxic International Corporation in the world was founded: The Catholic Church and, later, Its “Reformist” Christian spin-offs.
Which God would do something that extreme? Maybe Eshú/Elegguá but it would have been a very, very bad trick; Oyá Yensá might have wanted more tenants in the cemetery or Ogún needed more blood to drink and to quench the steel of his weapons. Changó could have been bored and wanted a long lasting conflict he could jump in and out anytime to go dancing…Which Santo do you think would do such a terrible thing, Moses?
Must I remove the veil from your eyes once again?
1) I am a Cuban by birth and culture.
2) The Cuban Revolution (Fidel and Raúl) set in motion a series of changes that brought the wrath of Uncle Sam upon our shores at The Bay of Pigs.
3) Fearing another imminent invasion, this time by USA troops, my family fled the Island and settled in the USA
4) I became aware of the real nature of the “Monster” that José Martí wrote about by living in Its belly, like He did
5) As the struggle in Viet-Nam grew, so did my opposition to the USA and motivated my re-locating to Canada.
6) Once here I got to experience the country, make very hard-earned money, began to travel abroad using Canada as my safe-base.
7) As a result, I learned 3 languages, lived with and talked to people in 10 countries and 3 continents about their life, saw and experienced wondrous and terrible things, got to confront the USA hatched, coup d’etat by Pinochet in Chile with a gun in my hand and learned a lot about me and life in all these ways.
8) Therefore my life as a Cuban has been made much, richer, wiser and generally much better as a direct consequence of Fidel and Raúl Castro’s Revolution.
9) Concerning how has Fidel and Raúl’s Cuban Revolution made Cuban lives better inside Cuba, it’s all in the article of Sr. Delgado Legon and many other posts I have already made.
I cringe when I hear robots like you use that “Socialist Paradise” cliche. It’s the ubiquitous refrain you see on all message boards about Cuba for people w/o knowledge, or who are to lazy to think for themselves. Who calls Cuba a paradise ? Where is there a paradise on earth ? And don’t be coy, Yoanni the political prostitute is 100% pro Washington/Wall St.
When asked exactly that question, her response is clear. She does not see the US and our system as the panacea to all her problems with Cuba in the same way Castro bootlickers see Castros’ Cuba as a socialist paradise. As a result she readily admits her best shot at living better is to live in a better Cuba.
“Given us Cubans a better life?” …your not there! ….so what are you talking about?
I find it curious that you would quote the “prince of peace” in relation to the Castros. According to Fidel, “only pure socialist doctrine, not God or religion, would satisfy the physical and Spiritual needs of the Cuban people”. Is this the same Castro you speak of who forced political deserters, homosexuals, and religious people to undergo ideological “re-education” in the infamous UMAP camps, where beatings, starvation and death were common?
I know the realities of Cuba, I lived there as a child and saw the changes firsthand. And these many years later I still send basic necessities to my family, including basic medicines. Unfortunately you are the one who is willfully ignorant of the history of Cuba.
By the way, was it the dignity and pride that Castro gave the Cuban people that caused all those Cuban lives to be lost at sea fleeing your paradise? Or was it his repressive policies that restricted what Cubans can say, what they can read….
As I’ve said many times, those actions scream to the heavens….they are powerful acusations that speak much louder than anything you can possibly say
Well then, if Yoanni Sanchez really believed what she writes she would still be living in Switzerland.
This is what I keep on telling these guys, Moses and Uninformed Consent, they know tidily-squat and they keep on denying the obvious, that Fidel and Raúl have given us Cubans a better life than what we have under “Democracy”. I have already told them about the horrendous conditions we had before, even at the “3rd highest standard of living in the Americas” (imagine how bad was for the rest under the USA boot) to no avail. They are determined not to see what we all can if we open our eyes. But now, with the USA Blockade collapsing, sanctions from the EU being dropped and trade deals with China and Russia expanding, our way is finally open to the full flowering of the Socialist Revolution began in 1959. Sorry guys, check-mate.
¡Gracias Fidel y Raúl!
It’s hard to read your comments and not laugh out loud. If you really believed what you write you would live in Cuba. The Castros are thieves who have stolen the material and spiritual wealth of millions of Cubans. I would remind you that Judas was also a child of God and carried out God’s plan. The Castros have indeed made a difference in Cuba….for the worse.
All those horrendous things were committed under capitalism,Could the Castro brothers realize the change they promised the people by adopting the same system which brought so much misery under the Batista Dictatorship they just overthrew? Of course Not!
Havana Times, these are the stories you should be printing more often than some of the tripe written by the oligarchs who long for the glory days of yesterday when they were monarchs of all they surveyed, there rights there was none to dispute. As a fair minded person, I must congratulate you for the story because this is what I have been expounding all the time–The real history of Cuba, which started long before the arrival of the Castros on the political landscape.. Your readers now have a greater insight, a greater appreciation, a greater understanding of the humanitarian role the Castro brothers played in alleviating the horrendous conditions which existed in Cuba. The Castros are not dictators, they are Saviours and Heroes of the downtrodden, the landless, the voiceless, the wretched of the earth. This story has brought balance to your reporting.
What kind of hypocrites are you gentlemen? You have just heard the history of a man who endured the pre and the post eras of Cuba where the American Embassy determind who governed the country. America did not care about the sufferings of the ordinary Cubans. The Castro brothers were and they made a difference in the lives of the ordinary Cuban people, giving them hope, giving them the dignity to live like the human beings they were created to be. Informed Consent, you are one of those persons who do not care a damn about the sufferings of your fellow men; all you care about is that you and your ilk enjoy the fruit of the land whilst the vast majority starve to death, The country could have ranked first instead of third and the ordinary Cubans whom people like you and bjmack detest as human beings would have been degraded, subjugated, voiceless, landless, live in squalor, oppressed, unable to access medical and educational improvemnts to their lives. This is what people like you hate the Castro brothers for. They abandoned their position of privilege in order to enable the vast majority of the wretched of Cuba to live like you all. This is an unpardonable sin to you all. History will never, ever, observe your shadow, much more to mention you. But, the pages of history will always trumpet the the changes, the improvements, the dignity, the pride, the joy, the humanity that the Castro brothers brought to the wretched of Cuba and, by extention, of the earth. If you are religious persons, remember what Jesus said to the man,”I was naked and you did not clothe me,I was hungry and you did not feed me,I was sick and you did not attend to me; I was in prison and you did not visit me:” The man replied, “Master, whence did I see you naked and did not clothe you? Whence did I see you hungry and did not feed you? Whence were you imprisoned and did not visit you? Whence were you sick and did not attend to you/” Jesus replied saying, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these my people, you have done it unto me!” The Castros and all who follow their example by looking after the interests of the wretched of the earth are fulfilling the Master;s Plan, for they are GOD’S children too!!
It’s easy for me to sit back in an air conditioned house, high speed internet, overstocked fridge, money in the bank and write something I know nothing about regarding your early life in Cuba. I can only read and talk with those who are your age who tell me similar stories but who were perhaps better off than you. The general consensus is most supported the revolution, for good reason, but what happened afterward was somewhat frightening. Religion was banned, private enterprise ceased,
marxism taught as a way of life and freedom of expression banished. I’d rather be hungry than bow down to that form of slavery. Maybe if I grew up in Cuba, during your ordeal, I’d be writing a piping a different tune.
I’m so sorry Elio, but your country is still a sad poverty-ridden country. At least in 1959 you could say that you had the 3rd highest standard of living in the Americas, a country that had a net influx of immigrants. Not so much today Elio.
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