Prominent Cuban Americans in Philadelphia React to Castro Passing
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As Cuba declares nine days of national mourning after the death of Fidel Castro, revolutionary and former Prime Minister and President of Cuba, Cubans across the globe are reacting to his passing. In Philadelphia, several prominent Cuban Americans spoke with AL DIA News about what they think this means for Cuba’s future and what they hope to see in the island’s future.
Currently a top attorney at Obermayer, Negrin was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey to parents who fled the Cuban Revolution in 1961 at the ages of 16 and 18. Negrin shared that his family fled at a time that it was the most difficult to leave the country. “It’s a great day of celebration. For a lot of folks he represents a lot of brutal memories,” Negrin stated when speaking of his family’s reactions to Fidel Castro’s passing. He told the story of his 92 year old grandmother, Angelina Del Risco who fled castro with his parents. She said to me, “I’m thankful that I’m able to say I have a day that I’m still living and Fidel Castro is no longer drawing breath.”
“I left Cuba in 1961 two years after the revolution triumphed. 1959 began the national confiscation of property and started the downward spiral of the community,” Rene Fuentes said as he reflected on his departure from the country in the 60s. Currently living in Philadelphia as Principal of Fuentes and Associates, a business consulting firm, Fuentes expressed feelings of cautious hope. When asked what he thinks the passing means for the Cuban people, Fuentes did not seem to share the sentiments that were common among celebrations across the country, “Nothing much will change for the Cuban people. Nothing will work until there is a free economy or free enterprise,” Fuentes said. But he stated that Castro’s passing marks “the end of a very long and sad history for the Cuban people” and of the people participating in celebrations across the country, “They’re hopeful there will be some changes.”
Born in Cuba and having left the island when he was six years old, Ray Yabor, President of Havana Holdings & Business Consultants, shared that in his experience, there are two very different sides of Cuba. The one of the common people, and the one of those who work for the government. His nuanced view also highlighted aspects of Cuban government that others overlooked: their high literacy rates and lack of homelessness. “A lot of the complaints [of many Cubans] come from making people aware of what they’re missing,” Yabor stated when describing the wealth disparity he remembered witnessing during a trip in 2010. But as a whole Yabor shared he knew that overall, the effects of Castro’s regime can be felt throughout the island. ”I feel for people in Cuba and here in the Us. They suffered a great deal. Their feelings are a little more acute than mine. You can’t undo history,” he said. But when speaking of the feelings he and other family members of his have felt through the years Yabor’s tone turned solemn. “The people in Havana have suffered a tremendous amount, politically, economically, and the fact that they’ve been far removed. [...] Those memories have been passed from generation to generation. The dislike has become a strong hatred.”