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Alina Fernandez, Fidel Castro's Daughter, Shares Life Story During PCC Appearance

WINTERVILLE—Alina Fernandez, daughter of controversial Cuban leader Fidel Castro, spoke in Pitt Community College's Craig F. Goess Student Center Oct. 2 as part of the college's celebration of “National Hispanic Heritage Month.”

The event featured Fernandez discussing her experiences growing up in Cuba before and after the revolution that transformed the country into a government-controlled nation with few freedoms for its citizens.

The 56-year-old Fernandez, who now lives in Florida after fleeing Cuba in 1993, witnessed the revolution firsthand and described her father as a "master of control and manipulation." She said her grandmother was much more succinct, though, simply referring to Castro as “the devil.”

Through her remarks, Fernandez painted a picture of an island nation oppressed by a government that created Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to essentially spy and report on the activities of its citizens. Even Mickey Mouse and her beloved American cartoons were taken off television and replaced by countless hours of Castro giving speeches.

“(Castro) was overwhelming,” Fernandez said with a heavy Cuban accent. “He was everywhere at the same time.”

Fernandez called her father “a textbook dictator” who seized full control of Cuba’s press, mail, phone lines and education. She said he executed enemies of the revolution that brought him to power, garnered Russian support to fortify his position of leadership, started a nuclear confrontation with the United States 50 years ago this month, and promoted American hatred globally.

Under Castro’s rule, Fernandez said, citizens received their income from the government and were assigned specific markets where they could shop for food and everyday supplies. It was a scenario, she said, that often left citizens without items they needed and ultimately led to the expansion of the black market.

“Nothing that you have is secure; they can take it away at any time,” Fernandez said. “… It’s a society in which everybody is obligated to steal at some point in order to survive.”

It wasn’t until she was 19 years old that Fernandez said she was finally told  that the Castro – the man who would appear on TV just moments before entering her living room as she was growing up – was her father. Though she had suspected it before she was told, Fernandez said she concluded early on that Castro would never be a “regular father” and tried to free herself of his last name and their relationship through political dissention.

Fernandez and her daughter ultimately fled Cuba for Spain before eventually settling in the United States. In the years since, she has continued to be an outspoken critic of Cuba’s communist regime and wrote “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba” in 1998. She currently hosts a radio show in Miami, called “Simplemente Alina,” that touches on a variety of topics, including art, music and, of course, Cuban politics.

Though many of those who experienced Cuban society before the revolution have passed away with time, Fernandez says she still has hope that her homeland will one day "be a beautiful country again."

Though they “have no way to fight back,” the people of Cuba today “want a better life,” Fernandez said, adding that their best opportunity for a free society probably won’t come until Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, who assumed Cuban leadership in 2008, die.

Fernandez noted that 11 U.S. presidents have been in office since Castro took control of Cuba in 1959 and there has been no success in establishing freedom for the island’s citizens. She explained that there is no willingness on the part of the Cuban government to work toward resolving its differences with its neighbor to the north.

Fernandez’s appearance at PCC was organized by the college’s Multicultural Activities Committee, which held a welcome reception for international students in August and has scheduled numerous events throughout the year to celebrate various cultures.

“We are always looking for new ways to foster inclusiveness and knowledge, as well as celebrate the diverse beauty of our world and its people,” said Regina Garcia, co-chair of the PCC Multicultural Activities Committee.