When Castro destroyed home for one child of Cuba
December 8th, 2016by Michael Smerconish
I was worried that I'd offended Carlos Eire.
The Yale professor of history and religious studies authored the
definitive narrative of Fidel Castro's destruction of Cuban family life
with his 2003 memoir, "Waiting for Snow in Havana."
Born into an upper-middle-class family—his father was a judge whose
avocation was the collection of antiques—Eire spent his 1950s childhood
catching lizards, going to the movies, chasing the pesticide jeep
spraying DDT, setting off firecrackers and celebrating friends'
birthdays. But the music literally stopped on Jan. 1, 1959, when Castro
overthrew Fulgencio Batista.
In 1962, Eire and his brother Tony were two of 14,000 children who fled
the island nation, part of Operation Peter Pan. Their mother would
eventually join them in the United States, but they would never see
their father again. Not since the day they sat in the Havana airport
separated by glass in the "fishbowl" departure lounge erected by the
Eire's book was both a National Book Club winner and a One Book One
Philadelphia selection. His memoir unfolds against the backdrop of his
boyhood neighborhood of Miramar and his family home.
"Rumor has it that our house collapsed about two years ago. I really
don't give a damn about that house anymore," he writes. "If it did
indeed fall down under its own rotten weight, good riddance. If it
didn't, the first thing I'll do when I return to Havana is rent a
bulldozer and raze it to the ground all by myself. Or better yet, I'll
stuff the house full of dynamite and blow it up. My final firecracker
surprise for the old neighborhood."
But the book contains no photographs of the residence, leaving it to
readers to conjure its structure. And nowhere in the manuscript is the
The closest Eire comes to pinpointing the actual locale is his
revelation that Che Guevara lived three blocks away, in an estate that
encompassed an entire city block. And that Batista's kids were Eire's
classmates at El Colegio la Salle de Miramar, "the finest primary school
in Havana." Moreover, despite the vast attention this literary
masterpiece has received, nowhere is that property easily located online.
In August, our family traveled to Cuba for a series of person-to-person
exchanges and while en route, I reread Eire's book. The more I read, the
greater my desire to see the exterior of his boyhood home to add texture
to my mind's eye of his youth. At dinner in Havana, when I shared with
my family my intention to email Eire and inquire as to the address,
there was uniformity of opposition. It would be in poor form, everyone
agreed. "If he wanted readers to know the address he'd have put it in
the book," said a family member.
Undeterred and armed with an internet access card, I sat in a public
park and emailed Eire from Cuba. A day or two later I repeated the drill
and I checked my account. Nothing. And upon return, still no reply. For
five months, I assumed those familial cautions had been well-founded.
Then, late last month, I interviewed him on SiriusXM radio about Cuba's
future. Specifically, I wanted to know whether he agreed with Donald
Trump's suggestion that the rapprochement begun by the Obama
administration should be reversed. Two days after Castro's death, Trump
"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the
Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."
Eire told me he agrees.
"I hope he rolls it back all the way to how it was before Obama took
office, because there was no deal," he said. "It was a complete
surrender to the Castro regime, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that
President-elect Trump does deliver on his promises."
Eire wants all sanctions restored and an effort to do likewise with the
"If Cuba became a pariah nation just like the old South Africa and the
entire world cooperated in boycotting Cuba, that regime would collapse
very quickly, just like the old South African regime collapsed," Eire said.
Then I turned to the more sensitive part of our conversation. I asked
why he never responded to my email. Had I offended him?
"Oh, no. No, and I never got your email 'cause I freely give out (the
house's) address. I've given it out to everyone who's asked," he said.
I've had so many people ask for it, including several years ago, the
British ambassador to Cuba, who said: 'Oh, you know, I'm living in your
neighborhood. Could you please send me your address?'"
"So what's the address?" I asked.
"It's 2708 Calle, which is Street, 22."
Only Eire's not going any time soon, at least not while things remain
the same. He said he is regarded as "an official enemy of the state." In
Cuba you can be arrested for potential dangerousness, like the Tom
Cruise movie "Minority Report," where people are arrested before they
"I can't even look at the pictures (of the house) without crying. It was
so unnecessary. It didn't have to be that way."
Source: When Castro destroyed home for one child of Cuba | Texarkana
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