By SABRINA GREGORY, Staff Writer
A remarkable story, Alina Fernandez learned, at a young age that her biological father was Fidel Castro.
It wasn’t until the age of ten that she learned her mother’s husband, the man who raised her, was not her father. At the beginning of Cuba’s revolution, her mother’s husband fled the country with her sister. So much began to change for Fernandez.
She started to see the man she knew only on television, Fidel Castro, come to her house. It was mostly at night that he would come over to visit. It was all very confusing for her. She didn’t understand what was going on but she saw that he made her mother happy.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Alina Fernandez took the time to spend the afternoon at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to speak about her story of her parents and her childhood in Cuba but also what she hopes to see for Cuba right now.
Not too long after this “visitor” began coming to her house, the decision was made for Alina to be legally recognized as the daughter of Fidel Castro. She didn’t want people to know they were related.
As she grew older, people began to use her as a bridge to her father to express their concerns and what they wanted changed in Cuba. So Fernandez decided to flee the country.
With the help of her American friends, Fernandez came to America disguised as a Spanish tourist with her daughter. It was in these moments of her life that she discovered freedom is something you have to fight for every day.
When her mother passed away, that was the first time in 20 years that she returned to Cuba.
During her visit, she said that things are starting to become different. New policies between the U.S and Cuba are in act with efforts to normalize diplomatic relations.
“Fidel and Raul [Castro] are totally different people, ” said Fernandez. “Raul is resuming steps to normalization. I think by next generation, it (normalization) will be done by good administration.”
Fernandez was a keynote speaker to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, sponsored by the Student Activities Board. Students along with faculty members came out to hear Fernandez speak, leaving with new insights and thoughts.
“It’s really important to have somebody speak who is from Cuba and to actually have experienced it and go through because I feel like I’ve heard a lot of narratives from people who are not from there talking about it, so it’s important to know what was actually happening on the ground,” UM-Dearborn student Teia McGahey said.
Michael Mchahwar, who is also a student at the UM-Dearborn, found a strong interest for the event through the flyers and decided to attend to hear Fernandez’s side of the story about Cuba.
“I probably didn’t agree with most of the things that were said. Her opinion and perspective is more valid than mine since I’ve never traveled to Cuba myself, but I do know people personally that have been to Cuba and I think there are several things that she undervalued or underappreciated when peers of mine brought up the fact that Cuba has achieved many things,” Mchahwar said. “Their healthcare system, they have basically eradicated mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and illiteracy (with a 98% literacy rate)… things like that.”
Overall, she spread a message to those in attendance that there is still hope for Cuba and for the embargo to be lifted so that Cuba can develop for the growth and good of the Cuban people, and to stand up for what you believe.