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Hernandez 1 Velia Hernandez English 114B Professor Gifford 3 March 2014 Impact Fidel Castro’s impact on Cuba was

immense. He not only instilled fear into the Cubans but on many occasions he also instilled obedience. Because he had complete control of the island, Castro did as he pleased and when he pleased. Although numerous Cubans were against his principles and were not pleased with their way of living, they still did not plan on leaving Cuba and obeyed Castro entirely because of fear. In the novel Finding Mañana written by Mirta Ojito, we learn about Mirta’s experiences in Cuba as well as her family’s struggle to leave to leave the island. During her time in Cuba, Mirta had to tolerate her country’s ideology versus her own belief system. Born in southeast Cuba and son of a Spanish immigrant, Fidel Castro spent most of his childhood in his father’s farm as well as Catholic boarding schools. “In 1945, Castro began law school at the University of Havana and quickly became involved in politics”. In 1947 he joined the Caribbean Legion and a year later he went to Colombia with the intention of disturbing the Pan-American Union Conference due to the riots that were going on because of the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. After many years of riots and fighting, Fidel Castro took over Cuba on July 1959. Beginning his dictatorship, Castro made huge changes, making Cuba the first communist state in the western hemisphere. As communist leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro controlled the will and mind of his people. Although various people benefited from the educational and land reforms Castro had created, many others suffered due to food shortages and no personal freedom. Due to all these hard times,

Hernandez 2 many Cubans made the decision to go to the United States when they had the opportunity to leave the country in search for a better future. In the novel we learn that the people had little or no freedom at all. The novel Finding Mañana by Mirta Ojito states that most young men “…had served in jail time in Cuba, though their crimes ranged from attempting to leave the country illegally to having long hair or punching someone at a bar” (page 240). Although most of these would not be considered crimes in the U.S.A., Cubans still had to serve time for this. They did not have the freedom to express who they were or how they felt. Everything they did had to be approved by Castro and his government or else they would end up being bullied by friends and neighbors or even arrested. Since Castro gave his people no freedom, many longed to leave the island in search of freedom. As hundreds of people waited at the Peruvian embassy for an opportunity to leave, they were willing to “…suffer inhumane conditions eating pets and shrubbery to survive, then live in a communist paradise” (117). This shows that Castro had made a negative impact in their lives because for the people anything was better than being manipulated by him one more day. Cubans were willing to wait as long as they had to in order to get an opportunity to leave the country. Parents were even willing to watch their children cry and suffer for a few days without food or proper shelter, then watch them suffer for the rest of their lives. They wanted their children to have the freedom they were not able to have while they lived in Cuba. Even if this meant risking their own lives to come to the U.S. or another country. Though not everyone agreed with the political ideology of Cuba, there were still countless individuals who did as the government said because they were afraid of being incarcerated or attacked by the their own neighbors. Although their neighbors knew they were good people, they still obeyed Castro and were against those who tried to leave the country

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whether or not Castro allowed them to leave or not. As people got tired of waiting at the Peruvian embassy for an opportunity to leave the country, many were terrified of going back to their homes because they knew they would be attacked by their neighbors. Others were brain washed by Castro when he said that “Inside the revolution, all is possible; outside, nothing” (79). They believed him and followed his every step even though it was against their own beliefs. Since he had instilled so much fear into them, they rather do what he said then try to find a way out. The majority had only lived under Castro’s regime and had never knew what it was like to have freedom or to make decisions on their own and for this reason they were afraid to leave Cuba even though Castro approved of it. A view on Castro’s dictatorship can be seen with Mirta Ojito and her family. In the novel we learn that her and her family had a different perspective on Castro and different goals for their lives. While living in Cuba Mirta’s family did not obey everything Castro demanded of them. Although there was fear towards Castro, her family fought for what they wanted and never gave up despite the circumstances they were presented with. When the time for the March of the Combatant People arrived, her father made them hush and they all hid in her parents’ bedroom. When the march was about to begin, neighbors were calling them but they did not respond and remained hidden until it all ended. Mirta’s parents had always longed for exit papers to leave Cuba but Mirta didn’t because she did not want to lose her friends and her remaining family members. By the time Mirta was six years old most of her relatives and family friends had left to the U.S. She did not want to lose more people in her life especially because she loved them and had grown up with them her entire life. But despite of that, her family was still anxious for the day they would finally leave Cuba. They were longing for the freedom they knew they would never receive if they stayed in their natal country.

Hernandez 4 When she had first arrived to the U.S., Mirta wanted to go back to Cuba but as the years progressed she no longer longed to go back and was thankful for what she had in this country. Many refugees did not know how to manage all the freedom they now had because for years Castro and his government controlled their everyday life and decided what they did and didn’t do. Some made the decision to go back to Cuba others killed themselves and others chose crime. Despite of this there were still refugees who made the correct decisions just like Mirta and her family and found employment in factories and went straight to work to fulfill their American dream. Although Mirta was young and maybe even inexperienced, she was able to realize that her parents had made the correct decision for her and her family. Even though it took her time, Mirta was able to notice this and made something great out of her parents’ bravery to leave the country. She no longer longed to return to Cuba and no longer thought the way she had thought before. She had finally received her freedom and she was not going to allow anyone to take that from her. As dictator of Cuba, Castro made a huge difference in the lives of many Cubans. He manipulated every single one of them and even though thousands left, the ideology Castro had implemented in them stayed with them and that is why many chose to return after being liberated. Mirta and her family are one of the exceptions because although they struggled with their new way of life and although they left family and friends behind, they managed to learn the American way of living and learn to sustain themselves on their own.

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Works Cited "Fidel Castro Born." A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. Ojito. Mirta A. “Hector Sanyustiz: A Way Out”. Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus. New York: Penguin, 2005.79. Print. Ojito. Mirta A. “Tempest-Tost”. Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus. New York: Penguin, 2005.117. Print. Ojito. Mirta A. “Teeming Shore”. Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus. New York: Penguin, 2005.240. Print.