Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Juanita Castro - Memory is Never Harmless

Juanita Castro: Memory is Never Harmless / 14ymedio, Francis Sanchez
Posted on August 20, 2014

14YMEDIO, Francis Sanchez, Ciego de Avila, 18 August 2014 – The
anecdotes, the identities and the composition of the family of the Cuban
Revolution's Maximum Leaders, after become a taboo subject due to steps
taken by themselves, has become the subject of public interest and a
source of constant speculation. A delicate area, the private and
mythical environment of the Castro Ruz brothers acquires historical
content from rumors, with unnamed girlfriends, faceless wives, children
and many family members rarely seen together even in photos.

And in this "complete photo of the first family," that was never taken
and probably never will be, is the disturbing "presence" of an odd woman
who carries the same last names with pride, defending the family
lineage, but at the same time rejecting the stamps these names have
placed on Cuban history. A strong, secluded, argumentative woman who
appears, because of this, doubly cursed.

Her request for political asylum in Mexico City on 29 June 1964 was a
bombshell. She started the day with a press conference that had a huge
impact: "The person addressing you is Juanita Castro Ruz, sister of the
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro."

Nearly half a century later, Juanita again comes to the fore with the
publication of the book "Fidel and Raul, My Brothers" (Aguilar 2009),
with the subtitle "The Secret History, Memoirs of Juanita Castro as told
to Maria Antonieta Collins." The testimony was ready back in 1999, after
months of confidential interviews, but ten years passed before the
protagonist would agree to the printing.

Recalling her departure from Cuba, she casts aside the possible label of
traitor, stating that from the beginning she had felt flagrantly
deceived, because from the days of the Moncada attack and the Sierra
Maestra front, when Cubans died confronting the Batista dictatorship in
order to recover the 1940 Constitution, her brother Fidel always said
that he was not a Communist.

Among the new confessions, this time perhaps the most incredible, is
that she came to belong the CIA—although she clarifies that she never
accepted money—in those difficult days in which, in Havana, she took
advantage of the paralyzing influence of her last names, to come to the
aid of many whom she sometimes didn't even know, saving them from a
summary trial or getting them out of the country. Her house came to be,
according to these memoirs, a refuge and an always full transit center.

Anguish and contradictions abound in a woman who conscientiously
confronted a beloved part of her own biological being

But the basic need that has led her to gather together her memoirs, she
says, it to tell the truth about her family's past, her brothers'
childhood, the history of the grandparents, and especially her mother,
Lina Ruz, and her father, Angel Castro, on seeing how they have been
slandered by historians who in attacking Fidel seek explanations in a
supposed dark and cruel family origin, in Biran, a farm ruled over by a
supposedly unscrupulous father, one who prospered based on criminal acts.

"I'm sorry to disappoint the pocket historians and the instant
psychologists," she says. Of her father, she opines, "Angel Castro Argiz
was a man who cared for others. No one who came to him asking for a
favor, asking for help, was refused." And she is nostalgic for the
atmosphere of the little place in the former Oriente province, now
converted into a museum: "Biran—where we were like a big family because
we all knew each other."

Anguish and contradictions abound in a woman who conscientiously
confronted a beloved part of her own biological being, her family and
her country. Someone who has not lost, for example, her affection for
her youngest brother, Raul. "Musito" to his mother. She favors him, and
presents him to us in very human situations, as at the death of their
mother, Lina Ruz, crying and inconsolably talking to the beloved body.
An image that contrasts with the description of another brother in power.

Her memories leave a sense of transparency. However, this doesn't mean
that the reader should accept everything she describes. Memory is never
inoffensive. Even at times when it is just interpretations. And
Juanita's has been a very particular and unique angle on Cuban history,
with advantages and disadvantages, precisely for being so close. The
most natural—to give one example—is that the memories of the taskmaster
Angel's daughter are more emotional and sweet than a subordinate of his
could have, without lying.

She broke with the CIA when they asked her to give a powerful new
statement to the press

She broke with the CIA—this is another hot testimony—when they asked her
to give a powerful new statement to the press, similar to her request
for asylum, but this time with a very different objective: to dispel the
fears about the advance of communism. The United States, then, to avoid
the danger of a nuclear confrontation, had reached an agreement with the
Soviets which demanded the US end its support for anti-communist groups
in Miami.

Perhaps Juanita appears more like typical Cuban of whatever shore, and
of the island of Cuba itself, when she is shown as vulnerable, unjustly
attacked, manipulated and, ultimately, in the midst of the waves and the
storms, alone: "In this fight we are all pawns in a game of chess," she

She has a very Cuban gesture of feeling herself the most miserable in
the world. And on this point, it is appropriate to concede to her the
sad merit of being a symbol of the pain and intolerance that divides
Cuban families. "No doubt I have suffered more than the rest of the
exile because on no side of the Florida Straits am I offered a truce,
and few understand the paradox of my life."

Expressed by her, it is no less pathetic and we see the opinion that
"hatred has always prevailed over our reason."

Luckily, toward the end of the book she invokes the future, allowing the
opportunity for love, not prophetically, but with an intimate appeal to
the smallest of the seven siblings, her "Musito," once he has replaced
Fidel in power: "Raul, in your hands could be the democratic transition
for Cuba… To evolve with dignity could be your great opportunity in

The book of memoirs is written in a pleasant colloquial style, like a
good novel of 51 chapters, narrated in the first person. We "hear" the
voice of a woman who has lived and stands before everything and everyone
with clear and direct style.

Source: Juanita Castro: Memory is Never Harmless / 14ymedio, Francis
Sanchez | Translating Cuba -

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