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Cuban immigrant enrolled at Syracuse works to ‘dismantle the socialist deception’

OPINION: Living under a communist regime, the last thing you could imagine is that, by coming to the United States, you would be exposed to people who really believe that socialism works

Like the average Cuban boy harassed by school authorities for trying to speak freely or even for having long hair, I fantasized about a society where I could be critical of government officials — and the government itself — without fear of punishment.

A society where I could advocate for my ideas, participate in politics, and try to live a life with dignity and basic human rights.

Because Cubans have always been indoctrinated in the notion that the U.S. government is the sole force behind all attempts to overthrow the communist regime, people naturally assume that most Americans have the same political position as their government, or at least, that they are informed of what is happening on our island.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

I arrived in the United States with my mother and sister in 2019, after a family reunification process filed by my father. He had immigrated five years before.

What struck me the most at first was the number of people who had a distorted idea of what it was really like to live in Cuba. Many could only think of the palm trees on a beach, but the first impulse of others was to repeat the magic words with which the international left justifies the tyranny: “free healthcare, free education, American embargo.”

Even those who had some idea of our misery could not distinguish Cuba from any other country with an economic crisis. Nobody knew about the constant mental siege in which Cubans survive: the strong political indoctrination and the forced cult of the personality of the leaders, the communist propaganda thrown at us by all the media, the absolute repression of individual thought, the impudence with which the government dictates and controls everything in our lives.

Perhaps this happens because for a person who has not experienced ideological oppression it is much easier to imagine a long line to buy bread than a scared mother teaching her children never to talk about politics outside the home.

But my mom’s shock upon arriving in the United States was even greater than mine. Having worked all her life in Cuban education—and thus exposed to all kinds of lies about capitalism—she just couldn’t believe that in the United States her children could go to school for free, and that we could have free meals, free transportation, plus all sorts of new opportunities and benefits that were completely non-existent on the island.

“There is more socialism in the United States today than there ever was in Cuba,” has been her favorite quote for a while now.

Also in my American high school I met many good-hearted and well-intentioned people—both teachers and students—who had bought into the Cuban government’s sugarcoated version of what life is like under socialism, and were simply ignorant of the real reasons for our exodus.

From then on, I became aware of the urgent need to share my life experiences with the American public.

More recently I enrolled in Syracuse University, and spent my first semester studying abroad in Italy. Now I am in my second semester, and my first on campus.

I always try to dismantle the socialist deception whenever I come across it, inside or outside the classroom. I’ve participated in discussions, debates, mock assemblies, poetry fellowships, and presentations in which I’ve told my story and informed others about the undeniable failure of the socialist experiments. In fact, I always enjoy when people ask me where I’m from, because that’s the perfect opportunity to see what that person’s preconceptions are about Cuba, and my chance to replace them with the truth.

But it’s not easy to speak out against the leftist narrative. Today the mere fact of repeating progressive slogans gives you a kind of moral superiority; and instead, citing statistics condemns you to always be stigmatized as politically incorrect.

My English language skills are also not always enough to win an argument against the whole class, and many times I have felt isolated and overwhelmed by the condition of not being able to express myself at the speed with which I think.

But if I managed to say what I thought in Cuba, where they could put me in jail for doing so, it will be a little more difficult for the ideological inquisitors to keep me quiet here now.

Sadly, it’s all about what’s fashionable. The left has been winning the culture war, and has dictated that the “cool” thing to do now is to be woke. At the same time, for woke Americans it is “cool” to disrespect everything that the United States stands for, because for them the United States itself is nothing more than a symbol of racism and oppression that must be destroyed in the name of social justice – only to later become a communist dystopian hell.

Meanwhile, every time my Cuban friends — desperate to get off the island but without the means to do so — have asked me about the political situation in the United States, I’ve had to tell them: “Most young Americans that I’ve met sympathize with socialism, and are pushing for policies that will hurt them in the long run.”

Then everyone responds in disbelief, worried, and sometimes even desperate: “And where will we go if the United States turns socialist?”

MORE: Meet the two Venezuelan exiles warning college students against socialism

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Justo Antonio Triana is a student at Syracuse University majoring in classical civilization and political science. He is a poet and writer, and has published articles and narrative in online magazines from Cuba, Spain, and the United States. Currently, he is an opinion columnist for The Daily Orange.