A Family Affair

My brothers have told me how embarrassed they felt when, on a day like today, they were called to come forward at the morning assembly. For the Edison Institute it was a great honor to have among its students three grandsons of the Commander of the Liberation Army, Miguel Coyula. Today, November 23, the anniversary of his death, was designated the Day of Citizen Integrity, a celebration which, like so many others, was forgotten after 1959.

My father, a militant communist all his life, sadly and quietly accepted that people had forgotten my grandfather, whose teachings and example made my father the wonderful man that he was. For his descendents, however, including those who were not even born before he died, it has been a great honor to have this legacy.

Not long ago a friend of mine asked me if our family had been rich, assuming the answer would be yes. She was surprised when I told her we were not, that the family fortune was this unmistakable but now much devalued last name. Citizen integrity in today’s Cuba is quite rare and considered utterly worthless. If mothers used to think of a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer as “a good catch,” their hearts now skip a beat at the prospect of a bartender or taxi driver, and they can burst into tears over an Italian, even if he is just a construction worker.

There is an Comptroller’s Office, but it cannot guard against the constant outflow from what is considered to be the public domain.

As you might imagine, citizen integrity has fallen on hard times, though there is no harm if I choose to remember it, considering it is a family affair.

November 23 2012