Cayman, Cuba ties deep

Let me get this straight: do you seriously mean to tell me that the first thing that came to mind when news that Castro resigned hit the streets is how this will impact CI’s tourism?

Maybe I missed something (I am living overseas presently) but that’s disappointing.

The lives of countless Caymanians have been impacted by the Castro regime.

As we know, after settlements by Americans on Isle of Pines dwindled, several thousand Caymanians moved there between 1920 and 1959 to take advantage of the economic opportunities in citrus farming and factory work.

My maternal grandparents were a part of this Diaspora. Although they were technically Cubans, they understood themselves to be Caymanians and raised their children accordingly.

The family felt threatened by Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in 1959 and spent several years searching for a way to leave Cuba. Finally, after asserting their Caymanian connections, arrangements were made with the British Embassy in Cuba to repatriate them to the Cayman Islands.

The precarious situation was worsened by the fact that one of my uncles was a month away from turning 15 – the age at which all Cuban males had to join the army. The family packed a few belongings, abandoned the house and property to the Cuban government and left Isle of Pines on 22 October, 1968. A skilled carpenter and tradesman, my maternal grandfather (Phillip W. Ebanks) soon found work in Grand Cayman in the emerging construction field.

My family’s story is similar to that of many other Caymanian families – Powerys, Ebanks, Crows and others – who fought to leave the oppression of the Castro regime. Loved ones had to be left behind: I remember the heart-felt joy with which my grandmother greeted her sister, whom she hadn’t seen in almost 30 years, when a visa was able to be obtained for her to visit Grand Cayman. This occurred in the late 80s.

That same great aunt later returned to Cuba, with gifts for herself and other family members in Isle of Pines. Some gifts were as simple as toothpaste and men’s deodorant. It broke our hearts to learn that when Aunt Florence arrived back in Havana, Cuban customs confiscated much of those gifts, citing socialist concerns about imbalanced enrichment.

So, c’mon, don’t imply that the primary concern about the end of the Castro regime is how it will impact tourism. We are not that shallow – are we?

Charles D. Bush

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