I had a discussion with my husband today after the Marco Rubio "exile" story broke. Both of us are very aware of Cuban history having several books on the subject, having taken courses on the subject and one of us Cuban. Almost instantly we could recall the important events prior to the Castro takeover of the island. The attack on the Moncada Garrison in '53, Castro's return in Oriente in December of '56 and the several years hiding in the mountains.
The Rubio family left before Castro even returned from exile in Mexico. Now I don't want to get into a discussion about pre-Castro Cuba, or conditions on the island at that time. Needless to say they were poor, and probably similar to conditions throughout Latin America. Conditions that would warrant any young couple to want emigrate to America for a better life, similar to Mexicans and Italians.
Post-revolutionary Cuba was another matter altogether different. The communist take-over of the island was based on the destruction of society and a conforming to an extreme totalitarian regime that controlled every aspect of life. Forcing children into state-run boarding schools, a complete control all forms of commerce, redistribution of resources and forcing city dwellers into the countryside to cut sugar-cane. Not mention the arrests, imprisonment, and murder of political dissidents. These people are exiles, because they were forced to leave their country against their will.
I know it may be a small distinction for some people, immigrant, exile but it's not to me. To claim exile, in the Cuban context is in some degree related to the suffering and degradation inflicted by Fidel Castro. It is a term earned from heartbreak, fear, struggle and loss. It's not the same as someone who is leaving for greener pastures.
I recently spent some time in Cuba traveling the island and meeting my in-laws. Everyday is a struggle for them. To get food, to get medicine, to keep the roof of their home from falling down on their heads. No, I will not blithely accept that Mario Rubio's departure from Cuba and the subsequent desire to return there an "exile." To give the Rubio family exile status is an insult to the thousands who have died trying to escape tyranny.
It's disingenuous at best, lying at its worst. I'm sorry Mr. Rubio, but you don't deserve the "street cred" of calling yourself an exile.