Castro’s exiled daughter discusses heritage

Alina Fernandez, author of the autobiography “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba,” discussed her childhood in Cuba as the illegitimate child of the country’s Communist dictator, Fidel Castro.

Fernandez, born in 1956, appeared as part of the annual Latin Heritage Month Community Dinner, held on Oct. 26.

Castro’s first visit occurred when Fernandez, a young child at the time, was busy watching cartoons on the family’s television set.

She was accustomed to having her cartoons interrupted for news about the revolution, much of which included footage of Castro.

“This man, the man who one night stepped out of my TV screen into my living room, Fidel Castro, didn’t come to our house very often,” Fernandez said. “[He came] mostly at night.”

Although Castro visited on numerous occasions throughout Fernandez’s childhood, it was not until she was 10 years old that Fernandez’s mother finally told her the truth: Fidel Castro was her father.

To Fernandez, it seemed as if Castro was everywhere. He would be on her television set, in her living room, and leading a revolution which would forever change the island nation of Cuba.

“Sometimes I would wonder if there were 10 Castro’s acting at the same time because in just one year he had become the chief of the army, executed an enemy of the revolution, had the counter revolution,” Fernandez said. “He had erased on the Cuban map any hope of resistance.”

Castro treated Fernandez with one of two extreme feelings, she said, depending on his mood. Either he utterly adored the child or he painfully neglected her.

Castro’s influence over Fernandez’s life never diminished, even as she grew older.

As a teenager, however, Fernandez began to feel disillusioned by the revolution and by her position in Cuban society.

“My deception with the Cuban revolution began when I was a teenager who could do nothing else but yell slogans [and] march in union brawls,” Fernandez said.

Based on the political practices she witnessed under Castro’s rule, and the neglect she felt from her father, she renounced her high position in Cuban society.

In 1993, Fernandez was forced to leave her homeland and seek refuge in Spain.

In the time since she left, she has had no contact with her father.

Now living in Miami, Fernandez is the host of a daily radio program on Cuban and Cuban-American issues.

“On my radio show [I discuss] everything but politics,” Fernandez said.

However, politics cannot always be avoided when discussing the issues of a particular culture, she is quick to point out.

“There’s always something going on in Cuba,” she said. “You worry about human rights, hunger strikes.”

The dinner was held to award members of the St. John’s Latin community.

The dinner brought to an end a month-long series of events in honor of Latin Heritage Month.

“The events were very successful,” said Diana Lopez, coordinator of student development and a member of the Latin Heritage Month committee. “We had no less than 80 people at each event.”

And while the events were successful, Lopez is still hoping that Latin Heritage Month, as well as Latin programming in general, can grow and improve.

“Just because there isn’t a Latin Heritage Month event, we still have to do Latin programming,” Lopez said.