Marissa C. Murphy is currently a senior at Boston College majoring in Communications. Marissa was born in New York, New York and raised in Miami, Florida where a majority of her Cuba family resides. Being half Cuban, Marissa has always been surrounded by the culture and been told stories about the political turmoil that occurred in Cuba. In November, 2015, Marissa was fortunate enough to finally visit Cuba with her parents, siblings,grandmother and cousins and was significantly impacted by her visit.
Q: What was your perception of Cuba before you first visited?
M.C.M: The only perspective idea I had of it was from my grandparents as a paradise.. from what they told me repetitively, it was a heaven on earth. They told me stories about it when they were growing up and it seemed so perfect. Everyone was happy, everyone was always together. I don’t know, it seemed like the best place ever to me, it seemed like a great place to live.
Q: Did your view of it change when you were finally able to visit, how?
M.C.M: Yes, definitely. When I got there I saw how destroyed the entire country was and how the people were living in serious poverty, which is the polar opposite of heaven on earth. There was barely any clean water, barely enough food on the shelves for anyone there. There was no running plumbing or electricity. The biggest thing that bothered me that there is such a paradox between buildings. One building was falling down and the other next to it was being refurbished and that really bothered me. The government only cares about the tourists by putting all this money into the buildings and it was so frustrating to see, because they should be working on building back the country and helping the people get back up. The government controls everything . It is a very oppressed way of life and it was sad to see these people and a country; a place that was so beautiful become so impoverished just because of one man [Fidel Castro]. There used to be so much opportunity in Cuba and it was on its way to becoming a world power and one man ruined it all. This is my view of Cuba now, not what my grandparents told me, it’s very sad. It felt like the country is wasting away.
Q:How was your family affected by Fidel Castro and how did they end up in the U.S?
M.C.M: My maternal grandmother lived in Cuba until she was fifteen her parents believed their kids needed an America education. So she was sent to boarding school in the Connecticut at the age of 13 so I think this gave her a leg up when she permanently moved to the U.S because she already spoke English. So anyways they left in June of 1959 and she thought and her four siblings thought they were just going to West Palm, Florida for just summer. She left all her possessions and her friends back in Cuba. She didn’t say goodbye and never went back. My great grandfather would go back and forth from Cuba to Florida, because he owned Banco Pedroso so he would come back to Cuba to run that. The kids went back to boarding school rather than coming back to Cuba before. My great grandma didn’t return to Cuba like my grandmother and her siblings and in January of 1960, my great grandfather permanently moved to Florida because Che Guevara (who was working with Fidel Castro) entered the bank. My great grandfather’s office was in the back. Che Guevara asked where Victor Pedroso was because he wanted to confiscate the bank. So he saw this through the window of his office and he was like ,shit this is bad and picked up his briefcase walked out the back door of his office, got in the car, and went straight to the airport and got on an airplane to Florida and never went back.
Q: What do you think are the misconceptions of Cuba by America after having visited?
M.C.M: Americans think it is a party place and a trendy place to go to and that really pisses me off because a lot of people do not understand the history and the sadness that comes into the country. So many people were displaced and so many people were torn apart. My family was lucky that they could stay together and stay close in the same state, but it didn’t end up like that for a lot of people.
Q: What were your thoughts on the “vintageness”of Cuba, it being stuck in the 50s?
M.C.M: Cubans are stuck in a time warp and the sad part is that they don’t even know it. They don’t have the chance to understand they are so behind in comparison to other nations. They barely have wifi and they barely have any cell service. You know, it’s really horrifying that everything they know is filtered through the government. Everything is monitored and they can’t even speak out against the government, because they are so scared about getting in trouble. They lack the freedom that would help the country advance. We take our freedom lightly.We think it is an intrinsic right, but it is not.
Q: Did you talk to any locals when you were there? and did they have any opinions on the current state of Cuba
M.C.M: My brother and I were so frustrated by the situation, because we know the history behind the reality so Nic and I would try to question the drivers and ask them if they are happy, if they like Castro, do they get wifi , a lot of basic questions. They were kind of scared to respond. They didn’t know who was listening didn’t know if we were spies, but you could tell that they had a lot to say. At the end of the trip my family gave gifts to the people that helped us, like a bag of coffee and simple things like that and they were so happy and thankful. It just really reminded me how oppressed they are and how they have so little that they are so thankful for the things they are gifted. That is such a special quality, because here you give a homeless person a bag of coffee, they would throw it in your face, they want your money. I just thought it was really interesting it showed a lot about the people and the life they live .
Q: Do you think you’ll visit again?
M.CM: Yes I do. But, I think I won’t ever have the same impact it did on me like the first time i visited. My grandmother goes back to Cuba so frequently specifically for art purposes. She goes to a lot of art events to meet local Cuban artists to bring them to the states. Since most of her trips are because of this, she doesn’t see the sadness of Cuba as frequently as we did on this trip so I think next time I go, I will be experiencing a more privileged side. I would love to do a service trip in Cuba also, but I think it’s kinda hard to do now. I definitely want to go to Cuba with my kids one day. I think it’s going fall on me and my generation to reestablish our family back in Cuba.