Thursday, September 30, 2010

Castro's daughter speaks at UF event

Castro's daughter speaks at UF event
Alina Fernández spoke as part of Hispanic Heritage Month
By Nathan Crabbe
Staff writer

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 9:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.

Like many Cuban immigrants, Alina Fernández settled in Miami after
fleeing the country.

But Fernández is different: She's the daughter of Fidel Castro.

"I'm surrounded by people that really hate my father and were really
damaged by him," she said.

Fernández spoke Wednesday to a crowd of nearly 600 people at the
University of Florida in an event held as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Since fleeing Cuba in 1993, she's written the book "Castro's Daughter:
An Exile's Memoir of Cuba" and now hosts a radio show in Miami.

She's a critic of her father, the leader of the Cuban Revolution who
served as president until health problems led to his resignation in 2008.

Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl, then took over.

This month, the Cuban government announced some of the biggest changes
to its economy in decades.

It is laying off 500,000 workers and allowing citizens to work in some
private activities.

But Fernández questioned the scope of the reforms, saying they will
allow people only to work in limited kinds of employment, such as
cutting hair or cleaning houses.

"They are the most bizarre jobs you've ever heard about," she said.

Fernández, 54, is the product of an affair that Castro had with her
mother, Natalia Revuelta, before he took power.

She said Castro wrote love letters to both his wife and her mother while
he was imprisoned before the revolution.

The affair was revealed to Castro's wife when a prison censor switched
the envelopes.

"A few months later Fidel found himself free from prison and free from
marriage," she said.

Fernández was just a toddler when Castro helped overthrow the Batista
government in 1959.

She recalled watching cartoons at the time and having them disappear
from the television, replaced by revolutionaries.

She later found one of the revolutionaries in a cloud of cigar smoke in
her living room — the man who turned out to be her father.

"That was for me the beginning of the end of the revolution in Cuba,"
she said.

She described subsequent years when the execution of political
opponents, the suppression of freedoms and a lack of food and other
necessities became the norm.

She became disillusioned and joined a group of dissidents.

In 1993, she posed as a Spanish tourist to escape the country.

The ACCENT student-run speakers bureau sponsored her speech.

Fernández was paid $7,000 to speak at the university, according to
Student Government.

Fernández said she foresees changes in Cuba when the older generation
passes away.

In a question-and-answer session after her speech, she told a student
whose family fled Cuba that she expected that young people like him
would return to the country to make it a better place.

"I think the future is going to be brilliant," she said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or

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