Friday, April 23, 2010

Reunited family recalls hardships in native Cuba

Article published April 23, 2010

Reunited family recalls hardships in native Cuba
Fostorians hear stories of censorship, defiance

FOSTORIA - Dusvany Martinez seems to have gotten used to being teased
about his first trip to a U.S. supermarket.

The native Cuban held up a package of meat and exclaimed, "Who will
arrest me if I buy this?"

With his wife, two children, and father-in-law at his side at Fostoria
High School yesterday, Mr. Martinez laughed as he declared the cases and
cases of meat in grocery stores to be the biggest surprise about America
to him.

In communist Cuba, he said, people could only rarely purchase meat with
their government-issued coupon books. If they bought meat on the black
market, they had to hide it and hope no one reported them.

"If you were to take or have a pound of meat, you could spend 10 to 15
years in jail," Mr. Martinez said through a translator.

Stories like his stunned the city government and Spanish students
gathered in the school's performing arts center to meet Manuel Diez, 72,
who visited the school in 2007 and returned yesterday with his newly
arrived daughter, Lisset; her husband, Mr. Martinez, and her two
children, Dayanys, 11, and Darian, 6.

Mr. Diez, a former political prisoner in Cuba, had not seen his daughter
since he left Cuba in 1987. She was 13 at the time.

"I didn't see him for 23 years, and I actually didn't think I'd get to
see him again before he passed away," Ms. Diez said through a
translator. "I'm extremely happy."

Her father, who was imprisoned and tortured after refusing to kneel down
to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, finally was released under an agreement
between Cuba and the United States that permitted political dissidents
who had been imprisoned for 10 years or more to be transported to the
United States.

"For me, leaving my daughter when she was only 13 was the hardest thing
I ever had to do, harder even than being in jail," Mr. Diez said. "I
live for her. My whole life is surrounding her, and now I'm not alone

Mr. Diez, who works at Consolidated Biscuit Co. in McComb, Ohio, and
became a U.S. citizen in 2006, saved for years to bring his daughter and
her family to the United States. He recently purchased a home near
Findlay where they are now living together.

Family members, who only speak Spanish, fielded a wide range of
questions from the students - some as simple as how old the kids are,
others as complex as what Mr. Diez would say to Castro if he could do so
without fear of punishment.

Mr. Diez initially responded that "there is no such thing as saying
something and not having a problem in Cuba," but when the student
rephrased the question, asking what he would say to Castro now that he
has the freedom to do so, Mr. Diez reconsidered.

"He should respect individual initiative, which is one of the things
communism kills," Mr. Diez said. "No one can think for themselves. The
government thinks for you."

When 11-year-old Dayanys was asked what she'd like to be when she grows
up, she had no answer. It's a dream she's never had the opportunity to
dream before.

Her mother said that in Cuba, careers are assigned to you by the
government, and everyone, regardless of profession, earns the same
meager wage.

Asked whether he still considered Cuba his home, Mr. Diez said the
United States is his home and that he never would return to Cuba.

Asked whether he still would stand up to Castro if he had things to do
over, he replied, "Absolutely."

"But he's not going back," his translator added.

Fostoria High School junior Paul Rodriguez said the presentation made
him grateful to live in America and have the kind of freedom Americans
take for granted.

"They can't have meat and you just walk into the store here and there's
a whole aisle of meat," he said.

Before the Diez family left, students presented Ms. Diez with flowers,
the children with stuffed animals, and Mr. Diez with a U.S. flag for
their new home. Fostoria Mayor John Davoli presented them with
black-and-white Fostoria T-shirts and gave Mr. Diez a brass key to the city.

"We normally give the key to the city to someone who's famous or
important who's visiting the city," Mr. Davoli said. "I have given this
key out many times before, but I have never been so honored to do so as
I am today."

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