Cuban Gold

Children of the Cuban missile crisis, we bear within ourselves certain visceral memories unimaginable to students today. Sitting in our classrooms, watching the clocks tick off the implacable hours, we awaited a word from our President and cast sideways glances at one another as we began to wonder – Have we celebrated our last birthdays? 

In 1962, I knew less of Havana than I did of death. Most of what I knew had come from television and film – especially Desi Arnaz and his Babalú– or from adult gossip about cigars, rum and fishing the jewel-like waters that separate Cuba from the Florida Keys.

Even as an adult visiting Key West, my exposure to that “other world” just ninety miles away was limited to enjoyment of Cuban coffee and pastelitos, the lilt of the music and the entirely kitschy “buoy” that claims to mark the southernmost point of the U.S.  It’s not a buoy, of course, and several locations are farther south. While the claim of “90 Miles to Cuba”  is correct, you still can’t get there from here as an ordinary citizen, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get here from there.

It took years for me to experience Cuba as more than a vague threat, a song, a pastry or an accessory to Key West. It happened one lazy summer afternoon while I was chatting with a customer who’d stopped by his boat, Cuban Gold, to work on a project of his own.

As our conversation meandered along, I mentioned my interest in Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, adding that I’d read about her in a blog named for Desi Arnaz’s most familiar song.  Gary stopped and looked up. “I know Babalú,” he said.  I was surprised, and my curiosity must have shown. By way of explanation he added, “I was raised in Havana. And my father died in Cuba.”

Indeed, he did.  Gary’s father, Howard Anderson, was stationed in Cuba with the Navy during WWII. He met his future wife there, an American citizen born in Cuba. After their marriage, Gary’s grandfather was lonely, so Howard and Dorothy moved their young family to Havana and lived there until 1959.  By the summer of that year, conditions in post-revolutionary Cuba were becoming dangerous and the family chose to return to Miami and rent a house.

As the months passed, stories and rumors of expropriated business holdings became rampant.  Howard returned to Cuba to protect his assets, including a chain of filling stations and a Jeep dealership. In March, 1961, he was arrested by military intelligence agents and jailed in solitary confinement.  Charges included being an agent for the anti-Castro group Acción Cívica and conspiring to smuggle arms into the country. While not a formal agent of any group, he did carry messages for the CIA and provided radios to the anti-Castro movement, justification enough for an arrest according to the regime.

He might have escaped with prison time had he not come to trial just as Cuban exiles supported by the United States began their failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs. On April 17, 1961, the day of the invasion, an infuriated court charged Anderson with conspiracy. He was convicted on that same day, and sentenced to death April 18.

Writing in the September 15, 2006 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Evan Perez recalls Mr. Anderson’s last letter to his wife from a jail cell in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province.

“Mr. Anderson said his fate was sealed.  As his trial began, air-raid sirens could be heard outside the courtroom… ‘It is unfortunate that this invasion took place, as under normal circumstances I am sure that the tribunal would not have been ruled by passion but by their own revolutionary laws,’ Mr. Anderson wrote in neat, square letters. ‘I hope and pray that you and mother will forgive me for the troubles that I have caused, especially this present big one.’  He was executed four hours later.”

The notice in the April 20 issue of  The New York Times was spare and unsparing.

MIAMI, April 19—A Cuban firing squad executed two Americans early today in Pinar del Rio on charges of counter-revolutionary activity. Seven Cubans were executed with them on similar charges.
The United States forwarded a stiff protest to the Cuban Government against the executions of the Americans, declaring they violated “the elementary standards of justice practiced by the civilized nations of the world.”
The American victims were Howard F. Anderson, 41 years old, owner of a string of service stations in Havana, and Angus McNair, 25, whose parents live in Coral Gables, Florida.

Gary Anderson’s sister Bonnie was five years old when her father was killed.  An award-winning journalist with years of experience that include two decades with NBC News and CNN, she also is the author of NEWS FLASH, a 2004 exploration of the decline of independence and truth in media.

As a daughter, she has been determined to preserve and honor her father’s memory. As a Cuban American, she insists that the world face the reality of Castro’s Cuba.  On December 3, 2006, her feature column in the Miami Herald detailed some of her family’s experience, and her frustration with the current state of affairs.  The full text can be found online; these portions provide a sense of her passion and her thought:

My father, Howard F. Anderson, was only one of 20,000 people tortured and executed by Fidel Castro.  Before my Dad’s execution by firing squad, he had most of his blood drained from his body to be used for transfusions for the revolutionary troops.  
[Note: Anderson v. Republic of Cuba, No. 01-28628 (Miami-Dade Circuit Court, April 13, 2003). “In one final session of torture, Castro’s agents drained Howard Anderson’s body of blood before sending him to his death at the firing squad.”]
Other political prisoners who watched the execution from their cells told me years later that my father refused a blindfold, and he whistled as the bullets tore into his body.  One of the few memories I have, since I was only five years old at that time, was that my Dad whistled when he was angry…”
“As a journalist, I refrain from generalities.  But I do believe there are few Cubans on the island and even fewer Cuban exiles who have not had a family member either executed or imprisoned by this megalomaniac.  What I fail to understand is why there seems to be so little national compassion for the pain that Cuban exiles have experienced.  Americans show compassion for cancer survivors, for DUI and rape victims, for people suffering from depression, physical and mental abuse.  We show compassion for famine victims in Africa…genocide in Ethiopia…  So why, I ask, are Cuban exiles not afforded the same support and compassion?”
Despite my Anglo name, I was born in Cuba.  My mother was born there.  Her parents are buried there.  My father was buried there until Castro was so ticked off by an article I wrote in 1978 as a Miami Herald reporter that he had my father’s remains dug up and thrown out. 
I am most proud of being Cuban American, and I want the rest of the world to understand our pain.  It is part of our daily lives, no matter where we live.  It is the ache of losing a country, but it is more than that, too.  It is a loss we feel in our blood and in our bones…  Our pain is part of our spirit.  The most we can hope for is compassion…”
A month after [my mother’s] death, a New York judge ruled that we should receive millions of dollars of the frozen Cuban assets held in this country because of Fidel Castro’s murder of my father.  It is a very welcome decision, but very bittersweet.  Fidel Castro is alive and he knows he has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to pay for his heinous act.  But the fact that my mother isn’t alive to see this final measure of justice is a soul-deep wound that I wll live with for the rest of my life.
I weep for her.  I weep for us, and I weep for all who have been the victims of Fidel Castro.

Today, two American entertainers are back in the States after their own trip to Cuba. Looking at the photos of Beyoncé, listening to Jay-Z’s assertion that, “I done turned Havana into Atlanta”, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer naiveté – or stupidity – of it all.

I wish Beyoncé had told her fans the story of Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) and their struggle for justice.  I wish Jay-Z had demanded to speak with Cuban dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon, languishing in a Cuban prison because of his criticism of the Castro regime. I wish they had acknowledged the death of Oswaldo Payá or spoken of the efforts of his daughter, Rosa María Payá, to achieve justice for her father. But they were tourists, with other things on their minds.

There was no reason for them to think of Howard Anderson, who whistled in front of his firing squad because he “whistled when he was angry”.  There was no need for them to consider his wife Dorothy, notified of his death not by a compassionate knock on the door but by a radio broadcast out of Cuba. Cosseted and contained, they had no need for the courage of a family who chose to endure the pain of testifying at trial in order to make clear the significance of what had happened to their husband and father. Perhaps they imagined there was no reason to speak as Bonnie spoke, using her skills as journalist and writer to send her words around the world where they continue to resonate today, strong and vibrant as the day they were published.

Call it romanticism, call it too much time in the afternoon sun, call it an over-heated imagination if you will, but I talk to my boats. The constancy of the wind and the repetitive nature of the waves seems to affect them, turning them a bit like children who adore hearing the story of their lives, retold a thousand times.  They love hearing how they came to be, and the meaning of their names. Like any of us, they love to dream, and I’m quite certain they spend countless hours wondering where the winds and tides will lead once they’ve been freed from their moorings and slips.

Now and then I pass by Cuban Gold and ponder the mystery of how a boat purchased with funds won back from a murderous regime came to fall into my care. As the heat and humidity rise and the lush perfumes of tropical summer permeate the air, as the pelicans dive and the wind rises steady from the south, I’ll talk to Cuban Gold.  I’ll tell her yet again the story of her name. I’ll whisper what I know of the beauty of the island for which she is named, and sing the endurance of the people who live there. 

I’ll encourage her with tales of other boats that have dared the jewel-like Straits and imagine with her the satisfactions of riding a great wave of joy into Havana Harbor. I’ll promise her that as she takes her ease beside the wall and basks in the admiration of walkers along El Malecon, she will be for the people a token of what they are meant to be – beautiful, proud and free.

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99 thoughts on “Cuban Gold

  1. Your photo immediately brought back some memories for me. I remember the Cuban missile crisis quite well. At that time I had completed Marine Corps basic training and was attending the electronics school in San Diego. Had things gone differently, I would have certainly gotten to see that country.

    A year later I was assigned to the Air Station in North Carolina and some of our reconnaissance squadrons were still monitoring Cuba with photo missions (rotating out of Florida). They flew low (several hundred feet) and fast shooting reels of film of the island. By the time the Cubans knew they were there they were long gone. We knew exactly what was happening on a daily basis. I remember thinking “what a short flight”.

    1. My older brother was on the ship in the bay in Cuba, in the US Navy at this time. Tense time. All were quarantined to the ship until “negotiations” were settled. I so remember, as a youngster, when USA aided Fidel Castro, sent equipment, machinery, ammunition, jeeps, etc. to help Cuba. Castro “relabeled” with Communist “brand” over the USA’s so all would not realize the “assistance” came from Americans.

      1. Cathi,

        I’d not heard that story about the “rebranding”, but of course it makes sense. And what an experience that must have been for your brother – for your whole family. Our family didn’t have anyone in the military at that time, so our anxiety was of a different nature.
        Still, anyone who lived through that never will forget it.

        Thanks so much for adding your memories here. I appreciate you stopping by – you’re always welcome!


    2. montucky,

      Just about that time a friend was stationed at the old Naval Air Station Key West – now Truman Annex. He had hoped to serve in that area, but ended up on the other side of the world, floating around on a sister ship to the Pueblo.

      Ninety miles is a short flight. It’s just about a round trip to a friend’s house on the north side of Houston. Did you happen to see the PBS series about the Cuban Missile Crisis called “Three Men Go to War”? There are an assortment of cuts on YouTube, including the one below on the reconnaissance missions.

      I suspect your current reconnaissance missions are far more enjoyable!


  2. Oh my. Tears were already staining my face when I reached your ‘I wishes.’ What a heart-felt, heart wrenching and passionate post – in my book, worthy of a Pulitzer. This deserves to be read by every single person on the planet.

    (I totally understand that you talk to the boats! Every time i return home, I open the door and say, ‘Hello house!’ and now I step into the studio/bodega and say, ‘hello floor!’)

    I really really really enjoyed this post, but I also see an interesting queue of other posts that I’ve missed. For sure you have a special treat from Faulkner country, don’t you? I thought I was about to go to sleep, but how can I sleep until I’ve enjoyed your Mississippi lullaby?!


    1. Lisa,

      First, I have to thank you for your enthusiastic endorsement of my post. But I must say – given the abysmal behavior of our media today, reporting innumerable false “facts” in the Boston bombing case, I’m about to the point that if anyone offered me a Pulitzer for journalism I’d turn it down so fast it would make your head spin. Guilt by association is a terrible thing.

      By the time you got done with the Magic Carpet, I’m not surprised you’re having conversations with it. That floor is more alive than any floor I know, not to mention more lively than a few people I know.

      Of course you’ve missed posts – you’ve been pretty busy living! When/if you get by you may find something you like – but I think you’ve read the Faulkner. It got Freshly Pressed, so it bumped up to the top of the list. (Not that I mind someone re-reading, you understand!)


      1. congratulations on the freshly pressed!!! you certainly deserve it!

        with cuban gold, you have presented an amazing story that might wipe the glaze from the eyes of many who live in their own little bubble of a world. there are many lessons to learn from your post.

        thanks for your kind words about the floor. i’ve been working on shadows and ‘stitching’ along the border! one more hour, and i’ll stop for the night!


  3. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis quite vividly. It started during my second week of boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. All I could think of at the time was …”Hey, wait, I didn’t sign up to take part in a nuclear Armageddon!”

    Before that I was a student (and I use that term broadly) at the University of MIami. I remember the “Pedro Pan” flights where parents put their children on planes and sent them to Miami probably never to see them again, just to get them away from the Castro regime.

    I’d love to visit Cuba, myself, and I’d like to get there before Mc Doo Doos does, but while the Castro family is still in control I won’t go. Too many people I know lost everything because of them.

    1. Richard,

      I can’t believe I don’t remember the “Pedro Pan” flights. Of course, they began in 1960, when I was in 9th grade and not paying much attention to world issues. They surely were in the newspaper, but events like the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis overtook them and I just never learned about them.

      I did a bit of snooping and was amazed at the amount of information available. Of course now there have been reunions held, books written and films made. This NPR article was enlightening. I’m eager to learn more about it.

      There was one interesting tidbit in the article – the statement that “…the Castro regime had started separating children from their families as part of its literacy campaign.”

      That caught my attention for a whole number of reasons – not the least of which is the push for schools to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to kids, along with pre-school and after-school care. I know some parents who feel as though they’re being pushed out of their child’s life – by the schools. It’s a little weird, for sure.

      Well, my guess is that you’re going to outlive the Castros, so maybe you’ll get there one of these days. I surely do hope so – bring Omar and his bride with you and we can have lunch!


  4. I would comment, but what I’d have to say would be in language appropriate to the topic, but not appropriate to appear in your blog. I have no patience at all with the posturing “idols” of modern pop music, particularly the rappers, nor the example they set for our youth.

    1. WOL,

      I understand. Here in Houston the thug culture is on full display, and the number of murdered rappers is creeping upward.

      Still, if you didn’t happen to click on the link above for the Cuban rapper Angel Yunier Remon, you might want to give a listen to his rap called ” Denuncia realidad en Bayamo, Cuba”. It’s extraordinarily well done – musical, in fact – and if I were at all fluent in Spanish, I have no question I could understand the words. I understand enough of them as it is.


  5. I’m with WOL – the arrogance of our pop stars to assume they’re practicing some kind of serious diplomacy is astonishing. They trivialize the issues and denigrate the memories of those who died unjustly at the hands of Castro. You offered here a lovely tribute and an excellent reminder that Cuba isn’t done with its sordid history. It is important to remember.

    1. Snoring Dog Studio,

      Let’s see. We’ve had Rodman in North Korea, Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba… How about Justin Bieber to Syria? Dealio?

      Actually, I read earlier today that Rodman’s announced the FBI’s been in touch and — wait for it — they want him to be their man in Pyongyang. If true, this clearly is not our parents’ FBI.

      You’re right that there’s more history to be written in Cuba. I’ve wondered if the death of Chavez may be the first in a series of still-unknown events that may force change. There’s no way to know, of course, so we wait – and remember.


  6. I am truly speechless. This blog post is exactly why the Cuban Gold came into your care, why you crossed paths with its owner, speaking the words that prompted his response. What if you had not mentioned the blog you read with which he is also familiar? This is one of those golden serendipitous moments in the life of a writer, and you’ve done this family a great justice after a history of injustice, not only to them but to thousands. I agree with the person who said “Pulitzer worthy”. Now, where to get this published for all to see?

    1. Bayou Woman,

      Serendipity, indeed. On the other hand, curiosity plays an even more important role. What if I hadn’t come home and started the process of placing the bits of information I had into a larger context?

      Gary didn’t tell me a thing about Bonnie, for example, or her career. That all came later, as did the court records, the geography of Cuba, the history of the harbor… Fact checking is so important with a piece like this. When I read that Howard Anderson had the blood drained from his body, for example, I thought, “That can’t be! Who would do that?” Well, it did happen, and it was the record of the trial that affirmed it.

      Actually, when I think of “doing the family justice”, one thing that comes to mind is the “hidden” tribute to Bonnie here. Instead of writing a sloppy, sentimental piece, I tried to be as accurate with the facts as I could be. I think she’d appreciate that.


  7. Morning Linda:

    Your comments about counting the hours of the day while fearing the falling of deadly nuclear bombs from above remind me of the dark clouds currently originating in North Korea. An inexperienced kid of only 30 years with no military or political experience has the power to press the button and kill millions of people in South Korea, Japan, Hawaii or Guam.

    History seems to repeat itself as mankind plays with nuclear toys capable of destroying the world many times over. I hope we understand that nuclear bombs are nothing to boast about and has nothing to do with politics, military traditions or nationalism.

    Yep, I know what you mean by the Cuban’s missile crisis. John F. Kennedy showed a tremendous capacity to refrain from making irresponsible decisions and gave our lives back. If it weren’t for him we would probably be suffering from a nuclear winter of a thousand years…or more.

    My two cents on your awesome blog post about Cuba, Fidel Castro and his atrocities.



    1. Omar,

      I thought someone would mention North Korea. It’s a marvel to me to see the changes in attitude between the Cuban missile crisis and current events on the Korean penninsula. In the course of listening to a governmental official here and there, I’ve wondered if they truly grasp the possibilities. I don’t remember now who was being interviewed, but in the course of his answers he said (1) pushing the button would be crazy, and (2) the North Korean leadership is crazy. But we shouldn’t be worried. Well, ok, then!

      Long ago, someone with more responsibility than I’ll ever have in my life told me always to remember these two rules for life:

      “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

      “Just because something’s never happened doesn’t mean it won’t.”

      That about sums it up!

      There was an explosion at a fertilizer plant in one of my favorite Texas towns last night. The cloud from that explosion and the force of the blast was only the smallest reminder of what can happen when nuclear forces are unleashed. I pray leaders around the world keep that in mind.


  8. I was in first grade in Ohio and my only memory is drawn like a painting in my mind. The school teachers took us into the gymnasium locker/dressing rooms which were concrete block walls painted and shiny. Until then, I didn’t know those rooms existed. We followed instructions in silence; placing our hands behind our heads and laying our foreheads against our uplifted knees as we sat on the floors, packed in like sardines, I remember I wanted my Mother.

    Years later, I marveled, and still do, at the account of my husband and others my age who lived in Arkansas at the time. They didn’t even pause on that day. Life just carried on as if nothing had happened.

    How soon we forget history, thinking of only our desires to lay our eyes on far away places and peoples. Last night I read a quote of JFK that spoke of being quick to forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.

    Some would read your thoughts here and say you’re propagating hatred. Others would remember wanting their Mothers as they hovered in strange rooms thinking the world was ending because of a mad man.

    Unfortunately, celebrities have more sway than the victims of a regime that is still very much alive and well. It’s evil lies in undercurrents today and is only seen by those with keen senses. HIstory repeats itself because people forget.

    Well written post. It should be read and considered by millions.

    1. sherri,

      Amazing, isn’t it – the different ways we experienced the same complex of events. Clock-watching, huddling, ignoring. I didn’t have a clue at the time what I was feeling. Looking back now, I think it may have been my first conscious experience of being entirely out of control of events.

      Your description of your memory as a painting is perfect. I would have said snapshot, but the result is the same – a single moment frozen in time, with no before and no after. I don’t remember going to school or going home – just sitting there, watching the clock.

      The JFK quotation is sharpened by realism, not unlike “Trust, but verify”. I’ve always associated that with Reagan, of course, but I was interested in its origin. According to the Wiki, Reagan got it from Lenin. That’s rather a remarkable tidbit on its own.

      As for history repeating itself, I wonder if there’s not another problem, apart from people forgetting. So many people today – especially in this country – live in a bubble of complacency and ignorance. Not having lived certain events – the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights struggle – they’re easy prey for revisionist historians, willing to believe anything they’re told.

      I’m glad you found the post worthwhile.


  9. Taken together, liberal-arts college teachers, people in the news media, and entertainers have a huge (and disproportionate) influence on public perception. It also so happens that large majorities of the members of those groups have political and social views that incline them toward collectivism and lead them to overlook, condone, and even justify the evils done in collectivist states.

    In particular, many members of those three groups have been and continue to be apologists for the Castro tyranny in Cuba. Let’s hope that the death of the latest Castro dictator—which can’t be that far away, given his age—will allow the people of Cuba to regain their freedom.

    1. Steve,

      An example that comes to mind was the reception of Robert Redford’s film about Che Guevara at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. “The Motorcyle Diaries” received a standing ovation and overwhelming praise in the press, and yet it celebrates a man who organized the first firing squads in revolutionary Cuba – perhaps even those who killed Howard Anderson.

      It’s been a couple of years now since I saw a collection of Castro-and-Che tee shirts at a festival, with a banner promoting them as a way to share in “the romance of revolution”. Right.

      I was going to quote from Paul Berman’s excellent piece in “Slate” about Che, the film and the general indifference of American intellectuals to attempts by people like Václav Havel to support Cuban dissidents, but there’s no place to begin or end. Instead, I’ll link to “The Cult of Che” and note especially the poem by imprisoned Cuban poet Raúl Rivero, titled “Search Order”. Here’s how it ends.

      “Eight policemen
      in my house
      with a search order,
      a clean operation,
      a full victory
      for the vanguard of the proletariat
      who confiscated my Consul typewriter,
      one hundred forty-two blank pages
      and a sad and personal heap of papers
      —the most perishable of the perishable
      from this summer.”


      1. I hope I can weigh in with a slight counterpoint without losing two very valued blogging friends. I absolutely agree that there is nothing to condone about what happened to Anderson or anyone else persecuted by Castro, but I can’t help but also think about what our government did at Guantanamo Bay. I think it’s important in discussions like this to remember, always, that the inhumanity of one person to another isn’t something that happens only “over there,” but everywhere and all too often. (I’ll have to say that the few liberal arts professors I’ve met are kind and thoughtful people, interested most of all in doing the right thing as best they can.)

        1. Susan,

          I’m unsure of exactly what you’re referring to when it comes to Guantanamo. I’m quite sure you’re not talking about the arrangements of the Platt Amendment! If you’re talking about the far more recent decision to house prisoners there, and the controversies surrounding their treatment, that’s another matter. There are as many opinions about that as there are about Castro – maybe more. It’s a fact that Castro’s behavior doesn’t excuse anyone else’s bad behavior. On the other hand, I’m not willing to draw a moral equivalency between the Castro regime and the US government.

          It’s no more fair to generalize about liberal arts professors than any other group. I’ll grant you that, and I’m sure you’ve met some who are fine people. On the other hand, the first person I thought of when you described them as “kind and thoughtful…interested in doing the right thing as best they can” was Edmund Burke. The longer I live, the more I see the truth in his statement that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
          Far too often, people excuse doing nothing because, after all, “we don’t have the right to judge others”. Without judgment – in the sense of critical discernment – all we have left is participation trophies.

          Now, as for losing a blogging friend – my goodness! If you’re willing to let me hang around and make my silly statements about new music, why wouldn’t I enjoy you adding your two cents here? If nothing else, maybe we can model an alternative behavior for the comment sections of HuffPo and Drudge! ;-)


          1. Oh, brava, brava! Yes, the handling of prisoners was my reference (and I absolutely agree that there is no equivalence between the US and Cuban governments–as Churchill once said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”). OK, HuffPo and Drudge, here we come . . . (actually, perish the thought. The exchanges here and over my way are far more fun).

  10. I, along with my classmates and professors, sat glued to the radio in the student center of a small college in Northern California as the Cuban missile crisis unfolded. I still remember the fear, and the thought that there has to be a better way to solve problems between countries than nuclear war. As a child I had been taught to hide under my desk and cover my eyes so they would be protected from the shattering glass. Thanks for your well thought out blog.

    1. Curt,

      We took part in those “duck and cover” drills, too. I remember them only from grade school. By the time we were a little older, it probably had become evident to most folks that hiding under a desk wasn’t going to be of much help.

      But like you, I remember the fear, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to do such a terrible thing. I still don’t have an answer to that question – at least, not one that makes sense.

      Thanks so much for visiting, and for sharing your memories. You’re welcome any time!


  11. Linda, your posts resonate with facts and are told with so much love! I’ve never been to Cuba, never personally known anyone from the island, but I can empathize with their sorrow over losing their homeland. Entertainers who travel to foreign lands really don’t GET it, do they? They get a white-washed version of the truth, see the sights as tourists do, then return full of themselves. Sadly, they miss out on digging deeper. I’m sure the Cuban Gold is glad to be in your capable hands!

    1. Debbie,

      The tour guide makes an enormous difference. For example, being shown around Liberia by a Peace Corps volunteer was quite a different experience than being escorted by a Ministry of Culture and Tourism bureaucrat. And time makes a difference. When my folks came to visit me in Liberia, they stayed for a month. It was long enough to see a lot, including a lot of daily life. When many other groups or individuals came, they sometimes stayed as long as – three days!

      As for digging deeper, there’s something else to consider. Bey and Jay-Z surely got out of the US under some sort of special dispensation. Who knows what they agreed to in order to visit Cuba? It’s entirely possible the list included a few things like “Don’t criticize the regime”, “Don’t ask to visit so-and-so”, and “Don’t do anything to show the seedy side of life”.

      We’ll probably never know. Their trip may have been no more than the result of their desire to take the sun in a new and more exotic location. Even so, the entire episode speaks volumes about celebrity and its privileges.


  12. Wow — Yes, as Bayou Woman said, this was why the synchronicity of events came to pass. I, too, remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, although mostly what I remember is my parents being worried, talking about Kennedy and Cuba and things this fifth grader didn’t understand very well. It wasn’t until I was much older and watched a lot of documentaries that I learned more. (You might rent the most delightful movie “Matinee” which offers a view of the events and their effect on kids at the time. It’s really very good; how accurate, I’m not sure!).

    I get angry when highly visible people pop in on things they might not be so wise to follow. I have tremendous respect for Cuba and its music and culture. No problem. The rest? Well, I think Mr. Anderson’s story bears telling.

    And one final note: when you write things like this paragraph – “Call it romanticism, call it too much time in the afternoon sun, call it an over-heated imagination if you will, but I talk to my boats. The constancy of the wind and the repetitive nature of the waves seems to affect them, turning them a bit like children who adore hearing the story of their lives, retold a thousand times… – it’s words like these that make me realize how much I love to visit your space and revel in your language.

    1. jeanie,

      It’s amazing for me to read through the responses here. Some of us were in the military, some in college, some in high school, some still in grade school. We were scattered all around the country. And yet we all remember, however clearly, the events of that time.

      Like you, it took time for me to sort out what was happening. While I have certain reservations about Hollywood and television, there’s no question a great benefit has been the explosion of documentaries that help to interpret events of the past. It’s important to be aware of their biases, of course, but the original footage of events in places like Cuba is priceless.

      I suppose one of the great dangers of living life among the paparazzi is the temptation to see everything else as backdrop, scenery or set. I still remember the rage I felt when Italian “Vogue” published its photo shoot with oil-soaked models on oil-soaked rocks not long after the BP spill in the Gulf. At the time I thought to myself, “Don’t those models or editors know how contemptuous that seems?” I finally decided the answer was “No”. I suppose the same dynamic’s at work here – Bey and Jay-Z apparently don’t have any sense of being used, or don’t care.

      What’s more important to me is that you like coming by and reading what I have to say. Think of my little bloggie as a verbal version of your egg cartons, with words spilling out all over the table!


  13. I knew Bonnie when we were students together in Barcelona so many years ago. I have vivid memories of the compassion with which she spoke of her father and her desire for justice for the people of Cuba. I don’t remember the exact words but I do remember that look in her eye every time she spoke of her family and her fierce determination to tell the story of her father – her one true hero.

    1. Michael,

      I’m so pleased to have evoked some memories for you – especially such rich and complex ones.

      As for Bonnie and her family, their perseverance is an inspiration to me. I have no doubt they pursued justice in court as a tribute to their father, and a way to honor him. What they were awarded in compensation never could make up for what was taken from them, but it is justice nonetheless. It had to be a terribly complicated and emotionally draining experience. I’m glad they prevailed.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it very much, and am glad you added your memories of Bonnie for my readers.


  14. Hi Linda,

    You sure have an interesting and compelling way of looking at the Cuban political situation. You’ve definitely raised my consciousness about injustices that have occurred their under the last 50 years of the current regime. I’m most curious about the pre-Castro regime. Was the previous Batista regime a political force that favored the wealthiest of Cubans? Some would have us believe that the revolution took place as a way of “freeing” the working class from rampant capitalism. I’ve always thought the truth might be some where in the middle, but it is only a guess.

    My father had just finished working on a major ballistic missile installation near the Canadian Border in NY State when the Cuban missile crisis happened, He had just left that job to take a postal service job. A friend called to tell him that the weapons had been fully alarmed and were on full alert. He was convinced the end was near. Luckily he was wrong! I was about 11 years old and as scared as hell for about two weeks. It was a little more intense, or at least seemed that way, because my father had inside information. So, so glad he was wrong.

    I’m still wishing we could find a way to disarm all nuclear weapons. I know that sounds unrealistic but the mere existence of these threaten all life on our planet everyday.

    This was a wonderfully written piece. I loved reading it!

    1. WildBill,

      I’m just learning about the history of Cuba, and can tell you only two things for certain: it’s more complex than I ever imagined, and far more interesting. For one thing, much of what I’ve been told about Castro coming to “rescue” a failing economy and politically impotent nation isn’t precisely true. Probably the most understandable short explanation is in the Wiki, under the sections titled The 1940 Constitution and the Batista Era.

      Growing up in Iowa, we were aware of the missile silos in the Dakotas. (Sudden questions: are they still there? are they armed? How do they feel about fracking operations next door?) I can only imagine how your dad felt when he got that phone call.

      I suspect you’re right that inside knowledge made things worse. After my mom moved down here to Texas, I had a terrible time getting her motivated to evacuate when a hurricane was coming. I’d been through one hurricane and several storms and knew what it meant. She was, as they say, “blissfully unaware”, and kept asking, “What are you so worried about?” ;-)

      Your comment on disarmament reminds me of a phrase I haven’t heard in ages: mutually assured destruction, or MAD. And that, of course, makes me want to see “Dr. Strangelove” again. Thinking back over the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis and the Kennedy assassination, a film titled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” seems perfectly appropriate.


    1. becca,

      I’m glad you found it interesting. it always amazes me to think of the infinite untold stories walking around among us. Some end more happily than others, but even the saddest tales – like Kenny Hill’s – have lessons to teach.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      1. I have more photos to share — didn’t want to flood all of them at once … the trouble is I can’t decide which ones to use and which order. I love all of them. I looked at the newspaper article again today and there is going to be a Festival of Folk Art in Chauvin this weekend. Unfortunately, it is not the weekend I am planned to be there for my mom. I will try to go again, and get some shots with “spring” in them. Stay tuned … and keep sharing your gift with us. :D

        1. The truth is, I don’t think there’s any “order” there. That’s part of the fascination of the place. I have a feeling it’s a fairly accurate outward representation of Kenny’s interior life!

    1. Hippie Cahier,

      Thank you for raising the subject initially. I’d been fairly irritated by the hoopla surrounding J&B’s trip, but I couldn’t seem to move beyond obsessing over how closely Beyoncé resembled Marge Simpson. ;-)

      Once I’d commented over at your place, I started thinking instead of obsessing. It’s far more fruitful, and sometimes even more enjoyable.


  15. Thank you for this post of truth. I remember the Cuban crisis -talk of what the planes had seen. I know several families who fled Cuba and understand what horrors they left.

    So Beyonce wanted an exotic vacation – and they got so much attention. Did you notice in some of the video of the pair walking down the street they were surrounded by an escort that roughly shoved anyone away that tried to talk with them? Obviously, Beyonce didn’t get to experience the real Cuba – the one the ordinary people there live every day. Great photo ops for the Cubans.

    And our legislature is about to drop graduation requirements for world history and world geography. It may not make a difference – it looks like knowledge of history has dropped out already.
    (And she did look like Marge Simpson! I see it.)
    Outstanding post

    1. phil,

      Reading your comment about Beyonce’s vacation and the “real Cuba”, I found myself wondering if “tourism apartheid” has ended at Varadero, and it has. For a time, Cubans weren’t allowed on the beach there. It would be a little like telling us we can’t go to the Everglades or hike the Appalachian Trail – that those delights are just for foreigners. What an irony – for a while, even Cubans couldn’t experience the real Cuba.

      So – geography and history are next in line? Perhaps we could declare reading, writing and arithmetic unnecessary, too. Then, after the legislation’s been passed, our legislators could gather on the steps of the Statehouse to serenade the lobbyists and interest groups with a little song.

      Sometimes I think Marge and Homer have the legislators beat in the smarts department.


  16. Thank you for this look back at 1961. I was 12 years-old and living in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. I remember those days of confusion and fear; Port Everglades was on the South side of town and was considered a prime target.

    The plight of Howard Anderson and others is a story that needs to be told and I thank you for posting it here.

    1. Allan,

      It was hard enough to cope with that time as a child in Iowa. I can only imagine what it was like in Florida. And the stories do need to be told. Some remain hidden and are yet to be told. Others, like Howard Anderson’s, were front page news for a time, but now need to be re-told for the sake of a new audience.

      I’m so glad that you stopped by my blog. I appreciated your comment, of course, but I was delighted beyond words by some of the postings I found on your blog. Is it possible that stairway is in Scott Hall? I didn’t spend much time at SFTS, but I’ve visited. And the Bridge… I lived in Berkeley/Oakland for three years, and spent more time than I probably should have up on top of Marin Avenue, watching the fog come in over and under the Bridge. I never expected to come across someone who’s been on top of the bridge!

      Here’s one of my favorites, just for old time’s sake. Now I’m homesick.


    1. The Bug,

      There are so many tales embedded in our histories. Some inspire, some are heart-breaking. But the telling’s important. It’s part of what binds us to one another. Learning how to tell a story’s something else – more complicated than I ever imagined. I’m glad you thought this one “told well”.


  17. Like you’ve mentioned before about Cuba and about Thatcher recently, the further you’re removed from a situation the less detail you get. I think the same effect happens to the Cuban story over here and in Europe. I know a few people who have travelled to Cuba but only as tourists but they say it is a beautiful place with an amazing culture. I hope the situation improves soon for it and its citizens (resident and exiled). Hopefully heartfelt and well researched pieces like yours will feed the fire!

    The part of the post which resonated most was you having conversations with your boats. How lovely. It’s such a perfect way to describe the noises that boats make! I’ve always wanted to record those sounds somehow, they are really poetic. I think when you work on something you do develop a relationship with it. I was recently at a garden I created a while back and was chatting away to it ;)

    Oh! And those dresses in the video clip. Wow. Those were the days eh?!

    1. thinkingcowgirl,

      Or, to put it another way, distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it can just as easily confuse the mind.

      Besides all that, context is so important when it comes to understanding someone’s view of a culture or a personality. England’s no more a monolithic culture than is the US – or even Cuba, for all that – so it makes sense that different people will have different views of things, depending on their background and experiences. I’ve spoken of my friend in Wales. When her husband was alive, it was wonderful to listen to them talk British politics. They couldn’t have been farther apart. I told them every time they went home I had to watch the PMQs on BBC, just to get my “fix” of conflict and angst!

      As for those conversations, I’m a terrible anthropomorphizer! I talk to anything that moves, and a few things that don’t. I have wonderful chats with my cat, the lizards that lounge around the front steps, the birds on the dock. Every sailor knows that boats are alive, of course, so they get thrown in with the lizards and birds. It makes perfect sense that you’d talk to a garden. It’s alive too, after all.

      I remember you liked the fabric in that one photo from my childhood. Of course you’d like the dresses!


      1. That’s true! We had a dressing up box as children, one of my favourite games and we had bags and bags of fabric offcuts for sewing and making things. I wasn’t a great sewer but I just loved the feel and look of all the different textiles. My mum has scrapbooks going back to the early fifties – she used to cut her favourite pictures out of Vogue and stick them in, we used to love looking at those! Even now I just have a vintage french peasant smock hanging in the bedroom because I love the faded blue and the intricacy of the smocking. And blankets – don’t get me started ;) Actually I was about to do a post about them but I may wait til next winter!

        1. I still remember how much I loved the doll clothes my mother would make. Because dolls require much less fabric (!) they often had dresses of velvet and other fine fabrics, trimmed with bits of lace and such. Remember polished cotton? and seersucker? Such wonderful fabrics that never show up on the rack any more. It almost makes me want to learn to sew – almost…

          1. Oh yes, polished cotton, seersucker, liberty lawn, poplin – love the names too. Hmm I understand almost…too many things to learn not enough time. Think I’ll stick to the writing! Your mums dolls clothes sound delightful. I’ve just remembered we had a special box where things like lace were kept.

  18. This is a poignant post, Linda, a moving tribute to those who had died speaking out against a brutal regime and a ruthless dictator. It is so so sad because there are other Castros in the world today, too many for comfort, not just in their own country, but as a threat to the free world. Again, I’m struck by how you can relate your seemingly common daily encounters to extraordinary events. Cuban Gold is an apt metaphor as she sails the wide, open sea freely, against waves and winds and tides.

    1. Arti,

      That’s one reason it’s so important to keep telling these stories. It’s why I was so pleased you initiated the Bonhoeffer read-along (yes! I’m still working on it!). There are people in every time and every place who are willing to stand against injustice and oppression, and we need them to show us the way.

      There are many people among us who have lived under the rule of dictators or the tyranny of utter corruption. I had my own experience of it in Liberia, albeit with far less consequence. If I ever can find a way, I’ll write about my experiences with Spain under Franco and Liberia under Tolbert and Samuel Doe. They were small, but memorable (and just slightly humorous in retrospect).

      It’s important for us to understand the corrupt ones. The hunger for power seems insatiable in some people – including some of our own leaders.


  19. This is a beautiful piece you have written. Yes, I think Bonnie and Gary would appreciate your objective and still passionate message. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the fear as a child of ten in our small East Texas town some 200 miles from the Gulf Coast and considering Cuban missiles pointed at us. If we felt that fear, I can imagine the fear that a little girl of five felt growing up and knowing the most precious of people can be taken away. Fueled by that early fear and the image of her father “whistling” in his last moment in front of a firing squad is a tribute to her Cuban “golden” spirit that she dedicated herself to deliver her father’s legacy. Thank you for telling us about this remarkable family.

    I think your piece needs to be read by everybody especially this week. If an explosion in a small Texas town can flatten it, consider what a nuclear missile can do. If perpetrators of the crime in Boston can casually penetrate a civilized gathering, we must remain aware.

    What an honor to work on “Cuban Gold”. I am heartened she fell into your skillful and caring hands and that you have told us her story. José Asunción Silva (Colombia) wrote a poem “La voz de las cosas” (“The Voice of Things”). You not only listen to her voice, but you talk back! Vicente Huidobro (Chile) wrote “Arte poética” claiming in his final line “El poeta es un pequeño dios.” Your writing is a force to be reckoned with.

    A boss I once had often encouraged us “to talk with people.” You not only do that but dedicate yourself to filling out the stories you hear, i.e. Yoknapathawpha, Cuban Gold, with the details of your research. You are delivering important work. Thank you for all you deliver to us.

    1. Georgette,

      I’ve been listening to the live feed from Boston television this evening and just heard the news that the second Marathon bomber has been apprehended. I can’t get over this report on the ABC news site about how it happened:

      “[After the shelter order was lifted] Watertown homeowner David Henneberry walked into his backyard and saw something amiss with his boat, according to Henneberry’s neighbor, George Pizzuto.

      “He looked and noticed something was off about his boat, so he got his ladder, and he put his ladder up on the side of the boat and climbed up, and then he saw blood on it, and he thought he saw what was a body laying in the boat,” Pizzuto said. “So he got out of the boat fast and called police.”

      “That boat’s his baby. He takes care of it like you wouldn’t believe. And they told him it’s all shot up,” Pizzuto said. “He’s going to be heartbroken.”

      I have no way of knowing, but I certainly suspect that Mr. Henneberry talks to his boat, too. And if there’s any justice in the world, he’ll soon have a new boat to begin chatting with.

      The good news, of course, is that terrorists can be captured, towns can rise again and the traumas of the past can be eased. We can experience fear without being ruled by it, and listen to radically different stories without being threatened by them. Sometimes, we even can enjoy them or be inspired by them. That’s why your boss was so, so right about the importance of talking with people. You never know what you’re going to hear.

      Thanks so much for your complimentary words about the piece itself. Sometimes I think José Marti’s words apply quite nicely to the endeavor called writing: “We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it.”


  20. Linda,
    I was shocked and bewildered when I heard about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s visit to Cuba, and what about Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea? It’s impossible to understand their thinking. There’s no explanation.

    This is a wonderful tribute and how splendid is it that you’ve been entrusted with “Cuban Gold?” This moving piece makes me think it was meant to be so you could share this story.

    1. Bella Rum,

      Maybe the explanation for Bey-Z’s trip is that there was no thinking. It’s the simplest one I can think of. As for Mr. Rodman… Here’s a post from his April 9 Twitter feed: “I started a trend. Everybody’s visiting dictators now! Did Beyoncé, Jay-Z pull a Rodman? ”

      Good grief.

      It never fails to surprise me how many of my posts are related in one way or another to my work. It’s proof of something I’ve always believed – even if you can’t go running off to the ends of the earth for a story, sometimes a story will come to you. ;-)


  21. Again a maelstrom of responses stirred up:
    1) I was a 15 year old in a tiny Canadian town during the Crisis. Dad was the reluctant volunteer “EMO” (Emergency Measures Officer) because nobody else there had taken much interest in the Cold War.
    I don’t think that my father had access to any better information sources than other townspeople back then – he and I took the news more seriously than our contemporaries though.
    2) In RSA for 2 years our social circle consisted mainly of Cuban doctors. They were generally much younger than us.
    If my memory serves they respected the Castro Government but were reveling in the “Freedom” of working in a “Township” (“It is not a Town and it is not a Ship”).
    3) Found ourselves in Havana a few years ago. Veradero had no attraction for us so we bused to Holguin and enjoyed perfect hospitality. Flew back to Havana and stayed a night or two with a very articulate lady who simply wanted to be able to travel like us.
    Yes, Cuba is isolated.
    This fact is not totally the fault of the local government.

    1. Ken,

      For some reason,your mention of you and your dad “keeping watch” reminds me of my dad taking me to the airport to watch the Civil Air Patrol planes. He didn’t have any connection to the organization – he didn’t fly, and I don’t remember him caring much about planes – but like your dad, he took the news seriously and intended that mom and I should keep up with things.

      Were the Cuban doctors in RSA there through some official exchange or other program? Their presence seems a little curious to me – although it’s probably no more curious than the fact that the shopkeepers in Liberia so often were Lebanese.

      I remember when a couple of fellows no longer active on WU traveled to Cuba for vacation – maybe three or four years ago. I can’t remember how they did it – through Canada, I think. But their photographs were beautiful, and they certainly had a good time. On the other hand, their idea of a good time seemed to be pretty much satisfied by beaches, Havana and nightlife – South Beach south, as it were.

      And of course you’ve hinted at one of the most divisive issues – embargo? No embargo? I still haven’t figured out where I come down on that one. The one thing that has crossed my mind a time or two is that open access to the country might help to eliminate some of the romanticism surrounding it.

      I’m glad you could “see your way clear” to visit!


      1. “Were the Cuban doctors in RSA there through some official exchange or other program?” Yes.

        The ANC Revolution/Government in RSA had been supported to some extent by the Cuban “International” especially in Angola. This seemed odd to me as well but Dr. Marin (Cuban) and I played pool with some “boshy” ex-military in Harrisburg who had served in Angola. Of course that particular war never happened officially – the wrong side won – Marin and the Boers had some stories to share anyway.

        The Cuban System produced a plethora of well-trained health professionals and exports them around the world for a fee (sometimes that fee = zero, depending). There is more to say about shopkeepers and embargoes but though I can still “see my way clear” these memories require much more energy than I can muster this morning.

        1. Sounds a bit tit-for-tattish. As for those wars that never happen – amazing how much damage exists because of them. The real end of my innocence started in Liberia. I’d be sent clippings from U.S.newspapers about events purportedly taking place in country, and it might as well have been a series of bulletins from Mars. The gap between the published propaganda and realities on the ground was remarkable.

          Save the shopkeepers and embargoes for another day. I have a feeling the subject’s going to be relevant for a while. You need your energy for the important stuff, like smoking salmon.


  22. The Cuban Missile crisis was a frightening time and this story is a moving tribute to one and to the many who have suffered and/or lost their lives to the maniac Castro. Well done.

    1. Martha,

      The point of admiring someone like Howard Anderson isn’t just to admire him, although that’s entirely appropriate. It’s also to understand who he was, so we can emulate him, if necessary.

      One of the great myths of America in the 21st century is that courage is no longer required. That’s one large blind spot.

      Thanks for the good word. We’ll take it all one step at a time.


    1. Claudia,

      It’s quite a compelling image, isn’t it? Since I first heard the story, I’ve been in awe of his dignity and courage. Many people face death with dignity, courage and grace due to illness or other reasons, but certain deaths stand apart. For me, this is one.


  23. What a well written but unsettling piece, Linda.

    Though I was old enough at the time and living in a city that would have been a prime target for Cuban missiles, I don’t remember a thing about The Crisis. Everything I know about that time, I learned after I was grown.

    I don’t remember ‘duck and cover’ exercises at school. If we had any, we didn’t understand the seriousness of them and they soon passed from memory.

    As for the home front, I’ve a feeling that my parents may have kept much of it from me, considering my age (10). Children and young teens in my family were shoo’ed from the room, when adult subjects were discussed: “You young ‘uns go on and play now.” I imagine they did the same thing with current event discussions and TV news, if they considered it all to be too disturbing for young ears.

    I’ve read numerous articles about Castro’s torture and executions of dissidents over the years but the mental images you created for me of Howard Anderson will stick in my mind for a long time to come.

    I hope and pray that the people of Cuba will one day be free.

    1. Gué,

      I suspect you’re exactly right about the protective impulses of the grownups. We were shoo’ed, too, and when we were, it was a signal that something wasn’t right. Our stairs to the second floor had a 90 degree bend and a landing. More than a few nights I would creep down to the landing where I could remain unseen and still listen to the conversation. The trick, of course, was not to fall asleep and end up being caught!

      I read the most interesting article about the “duck and cover” drills. It made the quite reasonable point that, in the beginning, the assumption was that blast damage was the primary danger of nuclear bombs. If you could protect against that, you increased your chances of survival. Once the dangers of radiation became clear, “duck and cover” no longer made sense.

      Sigh. Like you, I just wish people could get over themselves and appreciate life. What has happened to people like Howard Anderson – and millions of people known only to those who loved them – is horrific. Still, we go on, and perhaps, in some small way, we can contribute to change.

      More and more, I find myself thinking that the most important distinction in the world isn’t liberal vs conservative, or Republican vs Democrat, or socialist vs capitalist. It’s realist vs romantic. There are plenty of folks who want to believe in utopias. It’s never going to happen.

      When I was up in central Texas yesterday, I saw a lot of mules, and it made me think of one of my granddad’s favorite bits of advice: “If you’ve got a mule and want him to do something, the first thing you gotta do is whop him upside the head with a 2×4 to get his attention.”

      Maybe one of these days, somebody will get the world’s attention and Cuba will be free.


  24. I was thinking about the Cuban Missile Crisis just yesterday as I watched some of the coverage of the manhunt in Massachusetts. The ripples sent out by a few ruthless individuals can be impossible to gauge, but I imagine there will be some haunted dreams taking place in many of those little heads in the weeks and months to come. My older brother was on one of those ships headed for Cuba. He’s gone now, and Castro is still around.

    This is a beautiful post, Linda, and a sober focus on some of the stories that tend to get drowned out by the latest breaking news. Let’s hope Cuba’s next leader loves the place as much as its people do.

    1. Charles,

      Part of the problem, of course, is that the entire concept of “breaking news” has been so degraded it’s nearly meaningless. During the events in Boston, the breathless insistence that some reporter, somewhere, had discovered another critical tidbit was beautifully lampooned by “The Onion”.

      “WATERTOWN, MA—Sources are now confirming that no news is currently breaking in the manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev.

      Multiple witnesses and law enforcement officials on the ground in Watertown, MA have informed reporters that there are not any urgent updates or late-breaking developments to the ongoing situation, and the situation remains largely unchanged. Media outlets are reporting that everything is exactly the same as it was since the last update.

      Readers are advised to keep checking for any breaking updates that may occur.”

      Our local “news station” now assures us that they will break into regular programming anytime there is “breaking information”. Breaking information? Are you kidding me?

      Important stories are being drowned out every day by the get-it-first-and-hype-it-best crowd. Like the spam-likes and spam-follows that everyone currently is griping about, we often are getting nothing but spam-news. It’s hard to find reality, the honest, human stories, underneath the pile of info-debris. Still, your brother’s story, Howard Anderson’s story – a multitude of stories – are buried there. The trick is to keep digging.


  25. The real you with indescrible writing talent and humility are your greatest attributes. I marvel as I read each post. This is one that was much needed as most people have no idea of the Cuban situation and how horrific the conditions were and are to this day.

    It seems that your heart and soul are poured into writing about man’s inhumanity to man. I am quite sure the owner of Cuban Gold is proud that you have written this wonderful post about his father. It does not lessen the pain but this post has been put out there so that others may realize the sacrifices that were made all in the name of freedom and love for a country that is still under extreme oppression.

    I don’t usually read Freshly Pressed so I am glad that one of your posts made it. More of them should. I missed that post and some others as well while I was computerless. But I will be returning for sure to look for those that I have missed.


    1. Yvonne,

      I suspect that when a situation like the one in Cuba goes on and on, people become accustomed to it, or simply drift away to other things and stop paying attention. There’s that old saying about preferring the devil you know to the angel you don’t know, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t underlie some of the apparent comfort with the Castro regime.

      Gary did see the first draft of this post, and yes, he appreciated it. At the time, I believe he sent it on to Bonnie, too. I suspect knowing people still are paying attention after fifty years is worth a good bit.

      It is nice to be Freshly Pressed. What really gave me a giggle, though, was finding my blog used as an “example” in the Theme Gallery. For some reason, that just made me laugh. I don’t think this theme is available any longer, so it may be that I’m just one of the few still using it. ;-)

      I’m so glad to see you commenting here and there. I hope all those computer problems have been resolved at last!


      1. I had not thought about it in that manner. But I have often wondered why the US can not do more. I know that trade with Cuba has been restricted but I think (could be vrey wrong) a few things are being allowed into the states. The Cuban are so poor that even if the Cuban government allowed some good in, the polulation as a whole probably could not affored to buy hardly anything. I need to do some research on that unless you have an answer.

  26. What a powerful piece of writing Linda. I find myself emptied out by one family’s story. Why are some of us so inclined to violence towards our fellow men? What use of power is this?

    1. Tandi,

      I suppose the answer to your question about violence is going to be “answers” – one for each person who engages in such behavior. Violence exists on a continuum, after all, from the frustrated, door-slamming teenager to the genocidal despot.

      Now and then, I see violence even online, in the slurs, insults, condemnations and ridicule found on so many forums and in comment sections. That old mantra from childhood about sticks, stones and words just isn’t true. Words can be as violent and hurtful as sticks, stones and firing squads. It’s just easier to avoid such violence online than in the real world.


  27. Wonderful post. Living in South Florida, it’s common to hear many devastating stories from Cuba…. Such sadness for their homeland. I once dated the son of Cuban immigrants, and was enthralled with his stories. Again, terribly sad.

    And these entertainers’ recent trip? I was appalled at their ignorance. Just appalled. But unfortunately they have a very loud voice, and many don’t hear so many of the stories you mention, or those I hear.

    1. FeyGirl,

      You’ve certainly been witness to events in Cuba in a more personal way than most of us. Beyond that, it must be wonderful to have the opportunity to know Cubans as people and not stereotypes. I wouldn’t say that I’ve run into many – even any – negative stereotypes, but “Cuban” seems to be just a blank space in many peoples’ minds.

      I just don’t understand the adoration of “celebrities” in this society. Back in the day, we certainly admired film stars and got crushes on musicians, but we didn’t look to them as role models or life-guides. That’s what parents, teachers, religious leaders, family and friends were for. Who knows? Maybe the absence of parents, the breakup of the family, the rejection of religion and the transformation of teachers into baby-sitters has left a void only Bey-Z can fill. That’s a terrible thought… ;-)


      1. You’re completely right…. In the absence of parenting, sadly, these people have risen to the status of role models. Which is highly disturbing on SO many levels.

        The influx of Cubans in our area (from the ’60s forward) has definitely provided enough topics to warrant a VERY long book. Interestingly, some of the negatives I’ve heard come from within their own community — many Cuban-Americans fleeing Miami, moving north. But no one can judge without understanding….. That’s for sure.

        1. One thing I’ve learned in life is to take the utterances of every self-proclaimed “leader” or “expert” with a grain of salt. Is Al Sharpton “the voice of Black America”? Depends on who you ask. Al says yes. Others aren’t convinced. The same is true in the Cuban community, and it’s the complexity and variety of views that makes it so interesting.

  28. What a brilliant post! I personally loved the human element of “another time, another place” which you have so beautifully brought in.

    Speaking of the Cuban crisis, that standoff between Kennedy and Khrushchev so many decades back continues to intrigue and has become part of the twentieth Century watershed points.Imagine my surprise therefore when during my travel to Berlin last month, I came across another US Soviet standoff which could have sparked off World War III a year before the Cuban crisis!I have taken reference to that in a recent post titled, ” Those Faces of Berlin.”



    1. Shakti,

      I enjoyed your post very much. It’s quite amazing now to realize that Checkpoint Charlie has receded in memory nearly as much as the Cuban missile crisis. I suspect that if I went over to our shopping mall and asked people at random “What was Checkpoint Charlie?”, I’d get very few correct answers.

      There have been few events as stirring as the fall of the Berlin Wall. They deserve to have their stories told, too. Thanks for your gracious comments here, and thank you especially for reminding me of those other stories.


  29. I too remember being lined up in the hallway, our backs to the wall, our knees pulled up and our heads down. It was my second year in school. I remember the nightmares that summer as we waited unsure of our future.

    I grew up aware that if the buttons were ever pushed, my home, because of it’s proximity to the Houston Ship Channel on the north side of Pasadena, would undoubtedly not survive. All through the years of the cold war, that unyielding feeling of no safety grew in the back of my mind.

    Now, we all fear a random act of mass violence… Proving, once again, that we should live our life as if each day is a gift… Because they are.

    As for the celebrity visits… Blame them on the press. If they weren’t “news” they wouldn’t ever be reported.

    1. Gary,

      I’ll bet your feeders are full this morning! I was surprised that the front came through as quickly as it did. I hadn’t stopped to consider that our high for the day might have been at 1 a.m.

      You had a much sharper sense of things than I did, because of your location. Even though I understood on some level that the entire country would be affected if a bomb fell, I just couldn’t quite conceive of our cornfields being affected. Why would the Cubans want to destroy fields of corn?

      Today, some of your childhood anxiety is mine. I live on the edge of Clear Lake, hyped as a recreation center. But I’m conscious of being between the Port of Houston and Texas City, and all those petro-chemical plants. I’m very aware of the network of piping running beneath the water and land. Any terrorist who hasn’t thought of tapping into that system isn’t worth his salt – if I’ve thought of it, they surely have.

      I still remember the chagrin expressed when, in a drill, a bunch of government types came into a Texas City refinery by jon boat. Oops. And yes – I’ve figured out that if “something” comes along, heading west and south is the best move. Hurricane Rita taught me that. Do I worry on a daily basis about such things? No. Do I keep my gas tank full and a kitty “travel pack” ready at all times? Yep.
      What a world!


    1. Joe,

      How kind of you. I appreciate the mention on your pages, but I’m even more grateful that you find something of value here. Your visits always are welcome!


  30. Wow – you write well Linda. No words. I’m choked up.

    I’m surprised this post wasn’t FP. Almost every one of the long line of comments before me said …this deserves to be read by every single person on the planet… and worthy of a Pulitzer.

    I love the synchronicity of how you met a stranger at his boat and he told you this unbelievable story… You were meant to meet him and share his story.

    As someone above mentioned, every country including the US at Guantanamo have been cruel to its prisoners of war but I’ve never heard of something as cruel as draining the blood from a man’s body. And then shooting him. oh my god

    Last year we had a photography show on Cuba at the museum [where I work]. It was a wonderful show. Have you seen the photos of the 1950’s cars which are still being driven in Cuba? Its incredible that they’re still going – some of them are held together with duct tape! I also read many of the books – the factual histories and the memoirs – and went to a few of the lectures on Cuba. And of course I spoke to many Cuban Americans.

    1. Rosie,

      There’s one aspect of this story that does make a link with a Pulitzer relevant. Most of what I’ve included here was dug up with research. Gary didn’t tell me all of this – he simply mentioned that he was born and raised in Havana, that his family had ties to Cuba, and that he kept up with the Cuban community. Only after I’d culled the newspaper records, read the trial record, refreshed myself on the history of the Bay of Pigs and so on did I show him the final result, to be sure that I had my facts right.

      This kind of digging and fact checking used to be commonplace in journalism. Today, it’s certainly less so. I love it. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting beneath the surface of a story.

      From what I’ve read, draining blood from prisoners is more common than most of us could imagine. The blood, of course, is used for transfusions for other combatants. It’s harsh world out there.

      I have seen the photos of the cars. When they’re photographed well against the backdrop of the slightly seedy buildings, there’s a certain romanticism about them that almost makes me forget the reason there are so few modern cars. They’re a visible token of the time warp that exists on the island, I suppose.

      You have such interesting activities and exhibits at your museum – I’m glad that you had a chance to learn more about Cuba.


  31. I read Bonnie’s words describing her sense of loss and they echo my father’s words as we remembered the day our family left Vietnam just this last week. He spoke of a similar loss — not only of leaving other family behind, but of losing a decades-long battle against communism, of losing the capital city, of losing the country. You’re so right about the naiveté/stupidity of celebrity behavior, as though ignorance of the past (or present, for that matter) is bliss enough.

    1. nikkipolani,

      It must have been so hard for your family. On my father’s side of the family, my grandparents came from Sweden in the early 1900s. On my mother’s side, grandparents four generations back came from Ireland. But they only were bettering themselves, not escaping. Their homelands remained intact, they were able to communicate with relatives they’d left, and from what my mom and dad have said, they experienced the move almost entirely as gain, not loss.

      I listen now and then to people like your father – people who have fled terrible situations to come here – and I’ve heard them say, “Where will we go from here?” I worry about our country, and the kinds of loss I see happening around us. I don’t know what to do about it – what I can do, what anyone can do.

      What I’m sure of is that our celebrities don’t hold the key to our future.

      It makes me happy to think now of your parents celebrating together with that wonderful orange cake. I hope there always is sweetness in their life, and in your whole family’s.


  32. Dear Linda,

    A friend just told me about your post… and within seconds, I had tears in my eyes.

    It has been 52 years since my father, Howard (known to all as Andy), was executed after having his blood drained from his body. But the pain is not one that will ever go away. I was just five then, but that loss cannot be measured in years.

    I am honored that you quoted from my op/ed piece in the Miami Herald. In 1987, I believe, I wrote -as a rookie reporter- a magazine piece for the same paper….after going to Cuba as a reporter, coming face to face with Castro, talking with him and then going to my father’s grave.

    I believe that reminding the world of the 20,000 others who were killed, the hundreds of thousands who have been imprisoned in Cuba for so-called political crimes (such as believing in Democracy) is not only public service, but it is most humanitarian.

    I’ve just read each response…. and, while doing so, the tears really flowed. I thank you and everyone who has posted on this string for not only your kind words but also for your understanding of what so many of us have gone through.

    And, sadly, what so many more people in Cuba will go through…

    The “celebrities” go to Cuba, stay at hotels that NO Cuban can visit. They can’t even go for a drink at the bar, much less spend the night. These so-called celebrities are treated like royalty, eating food that the average Cuban can’t eat, living as no Cuban (other than some government officials) can enjoy.

    The fire in my belly about this is strong. When I meet people who say they are going to sneak into Cuba (against US laws), I first listen to them and ask them why they want to go to Cuba. I nod. I agree that Cuba is a most amazing place with people who are dynamic…and I run out of superlatives. But then I tell them my story, the story of the Cuban people under this continuing regime. I tell them about the horrors, the repression, the lack of civil rights and basic human rights. I don’t convince everyone.

    What you’ve written helps keep the past AND current times alive in world consciousness. I thank you, most sincerely.

    Dad was the mastermind of the building of boats in Cuba called the Cubavich. (There’s a whole story behind this.) Hull #1 was for our family, and Dad called it the Bonnie-Lee. Lee is my sister.

    He and Mom taught me the love of the ocean, of fishing and of boats…as young as I was. My current sportfisher, and my previous one, are called “Andy.” That is only fitting. I am on board the Andy every possible fishing day.

    We have two Blue Marlin world records aboard my Andy. When I caught my 16 pound tippet (flyfishing) Blue Marlin world record on the Andy, I could hear Daddy cheering me on.

    Boats, fishing, ethics, principles, doing the right thing against all odds….these are all in my blood. I lost my Dad when I was five, but he is always with me.

    Thank you again, and thanks to other who have posted, for reminding the world of Cuba…

    Warmest regards,

    Bonnie M. Anderson

    1. Bonnie,

      I’m beyond delighted that you found your way here, and touched by your response. As I said to Bayou Woman, above, “When I think of “doing the family justice”, one thing that comes to mind is the “hidden” tribute to Bonnie here. Instead of writing a sloppy, sentimental piece, I tried to be as accurate with the facts as I could be. I think she’d appreciate that.”

      Now, having read your account of writing your magazine piece, I see I was right. You rejected the maudlin when you did your own writing. As they say, the facts spoke for themselves then, and they continue to speak now.

      I’m tickled to finally have the mystery of the Andy solved. I’d come across the photo of you with one of the fish while I was researching this piece, and wondered about the boat’s name. Now I know.

      I have no doubt your Dad has been cheering you on, and not only for your fishing expertise and commitment to the Cuban people. Your experiences in journalism still have relevance. It’s hard not to read this excerpt from your 2005 Buzzfeed interview and not think it was written this week:

      “You have an Administration lying to the public and participating in pulling the wool over the eyes of the public to advance their own agenda.

      Call me old school. Call me old fashioned or a dinosaur, but I think government should be about protecting the Bill of Rights. Government should be truthful to the American public, and not about trying to manipulate the public and, in this case, also manipulating the media.

      We also had commentators who were pretending to give their honest opinion on issues, when they were being paid by the Administration to promote an agenda. This, to me, is very, very frightening. Red flags should be going up all over this country. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that there will be that sort of national debate or alarm over this. It is horrific.”

      Well, we have some alarm now, and the beginnings of debate. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the issues have to be addressed. The terrible irony is that the same people who cluck-cluck about conditions in Cuba seem unable to recognize those same conditions developing here.

      Well, enough of that. I’m so glad you read the comments here, too. One of the reasons I’ve continued to devote my energies to blogging is because I so enjoy the interaction with readers, and I have some of the best. We don’t always agree, but they’re thoughtful and engaged – and capable of empathy for people who have suffered.

      Again, I’m so pleased you found this and took the time to comment. We won’t forget.


  33. The internet is a wonderful meeting place. How thrilling that Bonnie Anderson found your Pulitzer worthy post Linda.

    I sincerely hope I’ll be able to meet the person who wrote:
    “Boats, fishing, ethics, principles, doing the right thing against all odds….these are all in my blood. I lost my Dad when I was five, but he is always with me.”

    1. dearrosie,

      Since beginning my blog, I’ve had many experiences of writing about a person only to have that person, or one of their family members or friends, appear out of the blue to leave a comment.
      It’s always a remarkable experience, and certainly shows the positive side of the internet.

      Each of those things Bonnie mentioned are connected to one another, just as boats bobbing at anchor are connected by the sea that surrounds them. What that metaphorical “sea” might be, I can’t say just now. But you can bet I’ll be thinking about it.


  34. Linda,

    Thank you for your ‘hidden’ tribute… I am truly touched.

    I’m also impressed by your research. When I was a Managing Editor and then VP at CNN, I would have hired you in a heartbeat. Thorough and thoughtful.

    That said, I’m not yet certain that what I wrote about the previous administration rings true for this one…. nothing like the so-called Patriot Act (which took away more rights from US citizens than any other act or law) has been passed, yet.

    I will be happy to send you a copy of my book… the facts and circumstances are far too many to write here.

    But, again, thank you for reminding the world of Cuba, thank you for you kind words about my father, my family and me.

    I am grateful. And honored.

    And yes, we are all connected by the actual sea… and the ocean of all mankind.


    1. Bonnie,

      Since beginning my blog, I’ve discovered I enjoy the research as much as the writing. The thinking’s the hardest part, of course, but I’m getting better at that, too.

      I’m truly grateful for your kind words, and I’d be honored to have a copy of your book. In fact, I can’t imagine anything pleasing me more. I’ll send a separate email about that.

      Whether it’s this talk of the sea, or your fish, or the boats, I can’t say, but I found myself thinking today of this wonderful line from Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”.

      “I may not be as strong as I think, but I know many tricks and I have resolution.”

      And so we do.


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