Pedro Pan and Boycotting Cuba

Cuba native Carlos Eire, now a professor at Yale, was brought to the United States in 1962. He was eleven years old. His brother accompanied him but his parents stayed behind. Only his mother was able to join him years later. His father was forbidden to leave Cuba and died there, in the late 70s. The two never saw each other again since Carlos was sent to the US.
Part of a plan called Pedro Pan by the Americans, translated from Peter Pan, Carlos was one of 14 000 children who got a visa waiver to leave Cuba for the US. More children left for European or South America countries. 
The children’s parents were targeted as opponents to the Castro’s regime and they decided to give another life to their children.
Of course, they hoped to be reunited within months. They didn’t know yet about the missile crisis and that the doors between Cuba and the rest of the world would be closed soon.
As a mother, I can only imagine the incredible choice and sacrifice the Cuban parents made and also the suffering of the separation they experienced, for some of them, until death.
A scholar, Carlos Eire had deliberately buried this period of his life in his intimate memories. Yet when in 1999, the heartbreaking story of young Elián González summoned vivid childhood memories and he had no choice but write about his own scarring experience. But as anyone who has ever tried to write about a painful subject, fiction is always easier.
However, Waiting for Snow in Havana is Carlos Eire’s story. 
It is also the story of 14000 children.
It is the story of Cuba.
Although I knew about the dictatorship and lack of freedom in Cuba, hearing from a man who still has family there, about free education and health care to the cost of forced labor and repression, felt much more real.
Questions fused from the audience and time kept many to ask more about Cuba and what can be done about Cuba.
I avoid asking questions in a crowd aware of the distraction my accent often creates. Maybe Mr. Eire read my mind because he said that if we wanted to change the fate of Cuba, boycott was the answer.
The country lives from tourism. Without money coming from visitors, the regime would be forced to change.
Boycott is a strong weapon, if used by many.  
I remember, growing up in France, of the huge boycott on Outspan oranges to protest the Apartheid in South Africa.
My own boycotts now days are personal small battles that don’t feel victories. 
I boycott l’Oréal because the Nazis protected the French company during WWII, allowing the company to thrive when France was on its knees. 
I boycott businesses that have asked me too many times where I come from.
I boycott a trip to China because of the violation of human rights. 
I avoid buying Made in China, but where has my Mac Air been manufactured?
And I went to the USSR in the mid 80s when thousands of Russians lived under the terror of an oppressive regime.
I still consider my trip to the Soviet Union as one of the most meaningful experiences I ever had. On my way back to Paris, I felt like kissing the soil of my native land.
Seems excessive? The joy of moving freely, of talking freely, of reading freely, and the joy of simply being alive was exhilarating, and my gratitude for being born in a place that fought for freedom was limitless.
Accidently, my son is now working on an injustice project for school. He picked his subject without talking about it but asked me the other day if I could watch his power point presentation.
Surprisingly, he chose to research the Gulag and its toll on contemporary Russia.
Memories of my unusual trip to the Soviet Union flashed back to my mind.
Today as I listened to Mr. Eire, many disturbing questions broke my peace of mind.
Was I wrong to go to the USSR? Had my contribution to the tourism slowed down the end of the Soviet regime? Was it an insult to the Russian people to be allowed in restaurants and hotels they couldn’t enter and afford anyway? Was it okay if I gave magazines, earrings, beauty products, and even toilet paper and tampons to young Russians hungry to know the world beyond their borders? Was it voyeurism to visit crowded and below minimum standards apartments? Should I have boycotted the country for being one of the most repressive and brutal of the world?
Boycott is not an easy choice.  

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