Following the announcement that Fidel Castro had ceded power (temporarily?) to his brother Raul, they were dancing in the streets of Miami last night, just on the chance that Fidel might be dead. It seems ghoulish to me, to dance on the grave (or would-be grave) of anyone, even a dictator who, however just some of the grievances that propelled his revolution, has since strangled his people and condemned them to needless economic, political, and cultural poverty (while improving health care and repelling a US invasion). But I am not an exile, or the (grand)child of an exile, cut off a stone’s throw from the ancestral land.
When I moved to Miami, one of the nightmare scenarios for civic authorities was that Fidel Castro would die and a couple of million Cubans would take a boat ride in order to resettle in Miami. The city had an entire master plan, with heavy police presence, near-martial law, a big command post, lots of shiny cop toys. In light of the number of people willing to come during the brief period that Castro had opened the gates, the scenario seemed plausible, even if the reaction seemed somewhat militaristic. Meanwhile, an important revanchist segment of the local Cuban exile power structure dreamed of returning to Cuba to take up the reigns of power that they or their fathers (always fathers) had been forced to surrender when Batista fell. I think they expected to be greeted with flowers, to reclaim their expropriated property, and to be acclaimed — or perhaps instantly elected — rulers. It all seemed rather Bourbon and unrealistic to me. Cuba might be stuck in an economic time warp, but socially and politically it had moved on since 1959. Plus the view from the more recent exiles — frequently drawn from the bottom of the economic and social ladder — sounded somewhat different than the view from the top. I foresaw disappointment at best, and more likely strife. These were, after all, the sons and brothers of Brigade 2506, and assorted other paramilitary groups that were still active up through at least the early 1990s.
But Fidel proved to be a tough old bird, and a decade and a half makes a difference. The exile generation is now mostly too old to dream of ruling, much less fighting, although not too old to seek back family property and dream of economic development … with a whiff of economic domination … a dream that seems congenial to the next, and entrepreneurial, generation. The US is home to many second and third generation exiles, and for many their quest in post-communist Cuba will be for investments, for second homes, for nannies and au pairs.
It’s unclear, though, whether the old fear of a mass exodus of Cubans to Miami, a ‘Mariel boatlift on steroids,’ still remains valid. Today’s papers don’t say much on the subject, other than to say that the county government has activated its Emergency Operations Center. The Herald reports that the feds are just standing by for now,
The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are on standby until they receive official word to go on alert for their Cuba Plans.
”It’s a little too early,” said Zachary Mann, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the next day or two.