Fri, Dec 28, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Four Cubans tell their stories of the revolution

AFP, HAVANA

Former track and field athlete Ana Fidelia Quiros poses with a picture of herself holding a Cuban national flag at her house in Havana, Cuba, on Dec. 18.

Photo: AFP

On Tuesday, Cuba is to mark the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution that brought the late and enigmatic leader Fidel Castro to power. Here, four Cubans talk about what the revolution still means to them.

THE EX-COMBATANT

For 97-year-old Alejandro Ferras Pellicer, the revolution is as alive now as it ever was. He was the oldest of a group of 100 rebels, including two of his brothers, who joined Castro in an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in July 1953, an operation widely considered to have launched the Cuban revolution.

On Jan. 1, 1959, Ferras Pellicer was an exile living in the US as the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled his island homeland. Ferras Pellicer left his wife behind to take “the first plane” to Havana. “I arrived before Fidel,” who was still in Santiago, he said.

“I had to come to join the revolution here,” he said from the tiny museum dedicated to the Moncada operation that he built in the capital.

“I’ve never left the country” since, he said with pride.

When confronted by the Batista dictatorship, “revolution was necessary” because it was about “fighting for the future,” he said.

Most of all, though, “the revolution was Fidel,” he added.

The charismatic leader died in 2016. His brother, Raul, had taken over as Cuba’s president from 2008 and ruled until earlier this year, when he passed the baton to the first non-Castro post-revolutionary leader, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

“For us, Fidel is not dead. We’re keeping him alive,” Ferras Pellicer said, because “we’re continuing the revolution,” which “can last another 50 years” with public support.

“As long as the revolution has the people, it is secure,” he added.

THE ATHLETE

Ana Fidelia Quiros was a two-time world champion and twice Olympic medalist in track and field. She said she owed everything to the revolution, even her life. In 1993, she survived a stove explosion in her home that left burns over 40 percent of her body and killed the child she was expecting.

The revolution “represents everything for me. It’s thanks to the revolution that I was able to train as an athlete, become a better person and, most of all, allowed me to get through what could have been a fatal accident,” Quiros said.

Two years later, the “Caribbean Storm” won her first world title in Gothenburg, Sweden, before repeating the feat in Athens in 1997.

Such a Lazarus moment “wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t live in a country like this one, where medicine is free,” she said.

The revolution also helped make sports accessible “for everyone,” turning the island nation of 11.5 million people into an Olympic overachiever, with 78 gold medals in the Summer Games.

Quiros, 55, recognized that “many things are missing” in the country, but hoped that political reforms would “improve the economy” and help “Cuba regain its place” on the world sporting map.

THE DISSIDENT

The son of a communist leader, Vladimiro Roca has nonetheless been one of the regime’s fiercest critics for many years.

“The revolution died a long time ago. Now there’s a dictatorial regime,” the 76-year-old former fighter pilot said.

Having originally followed in his father’s footsteps — Blas Roca was a Marxist theorist and parliamentary president from 1976 to 1981 — the son grew disillusioned with the revolution.

“I fought for a democratic revolution and not for a family dictatorship, which is what has been established in Cuba,” said Vladimiro Roca, who was fired from his job in 1992 and sentenced to five years in prison in 1997 over his opposition to the regime.

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