For Cuban-Americans, generational shift parallels changes on island
Published: February 21, 2012
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- As Armando Gil departed Havana in 1965, his father's last words to him, whispered in his ear, were: "Under no circumstances are you to return as long as there is communism in Cuba." Bound for Mexico, then the United States, Gil was not in the United States a full year before he was off to boot camp for the U.S. Navy. Today, he is a retired schoolteacher, self-described "cradle Catholic" active in the Cursillo Movement and proud grandfather in Jacksonville. In all these years -- even as U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba have periodically eased -- he has never been back to his birthplace in Hershey, Cuba, where a defunct chocolate factory was once associated with the American food company of the same name. "I have not been able to see where my father is buried although I know where he is at," said Gil, 69, unable to finish his sentence. For Gil, so long as there is communism on the island, he will stay away. He is, nevertheless, understanding of the papal visits to Cuba and tolerant of younger Cuban-Americans who are traveling to Cuba to visit relatives. "The pope, as vicar of Peter, has to go; after all, they criticized Christ for sitting with the tax collector," he said of Pope Benedict XVI's three-day papal visit to Santiago and Havana March 26-28. Before he arrives in Cuba, the pope will visit Leon, Mexico, March 23-26. "I have cousins who have gone back," Gil told Catholic News Service, adding that he thinks Americans should not travel to Cuba without remembering the ongoing human rights violations and harsh realities there.
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