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Why I, daughter of a Cuban exile, will not drink to Castro’s death

ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP and Supplied Photo

Maria Morera Johnson - published on 11/26/16 - updated on 06/07/17

Fidel's dead; it's complicated. This changes everything, and nothing. It still comes down to the instincts of one human heart at a time

I was already asleep when my daughter came to my bedside and gently woke me. “Hey Mom,” she said, “sorry to wake you, but I thought you’d like to know Fidel is dead.”

Well. That’ll wake you up in a hurry if you have any connection to the Cuban-exile community anywhere in the diaspora.

“Whatever,” I said, pulling the covers closer and burying my head into the pillow. “It changes nothing.” I tried to go back to sleep, but the truth is, it changes everything. And nothing.

I got up and joined the kids in the kitchen. They were already watching videos out of Miami — two iconic eateries, Versailles and La Carreta, crowded and noisy, had people banging pots and honking horns along the front of the restaurants and into the street. Then again, it’s Friday night in Miami. What’s new?
Ten years ago I might have joined the revelry.

It’s complicated. The whole thing is complicated, and it’ll be days before my initial feelings get sorted. It will be longer still before we know what this means for the people of Cuba and if it means something hopeful. Who knows what Raul will do now.

You might think I’d toast to Castro’s death. No. No. I understand there are a million reasons why someone might want to do that. I don’t need to go into detail about firing squads, torture, balseros lost at sea, broken families. But I can’t be appalled by the atrocities in which he explicitly and implicitly participated, and then call myself Christian while wishing him a quick trip to the pits of hell. No. No. I say this to myself, but Jesus already knows my heart, and knows where it went first.

I’m not going to drink to this man’s death, but I’m not going to criticize those who did. Is that charity? I don’t know. It’s complicated.

We drank to my dad, instead. Pop, whose death a couple of years ago is still deeply felt by all of us, drank Dewars. We opened a bottle of Aberfeldy single-malt scotch whisky my husband and I bought at the Dewars distillery on a recent vacation to Scotland. There might be as many as 40 whiskies in the blend, but Aberfeldy single malt is the heart of the flavor, and always in the blend. I liked the idea that we were buying the “heart” of my dad’s favorite whisky, so that’s what we brought home. And that’s what we had on hand tonight.

This man who has robbed us of so much wasn’t going to keep robbing us in his death.

So we toasted to love, not hate.

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