ST. GEORGE – It was early 1960 when Florinda Hevia marched into the school classroom that her children were attending in her homeland of Cuba and announced to the teacher, “I am taking my children to a country where they can elect their own leaders and pick their own religion.”
Fifty years later, Florinda Hevia is living in St. George, near her son, Raul Hevia, and his family, all residents of Utah’s Dixie for seven and a half years.
The saga of this family is something many born and raised in America may struggle to appreciate if for no other reason than lack of experience. Yet it informs perspectives that are worthy of consideration: What is it like to live under communist rule, as the Hevia family experienced in Cuba? What if one lives in a region that is not communist or socialist by definition, but is largely so in the practical reality, as the Hevia family experienced in Puerto Rico? And are there parallels in American trends today that ought give us pause – raising the question: If it happened there, can it and might it be happening here?
In the early ’60s, as Fidel Castro’s invasion of Cuba was in play, Hevia said, his father had been blacklisted, was to be arrested and perhaps executed.
“He was what they considered a counter-revolutionary agent in Cuba and he put three conspiracies together to kill Castro, he was an anti-Castro intelligence agent,” Hevia said. “He provided information to the CIA and to the Cuban/military forces in government at the time, but he wasn’t a military man. He was doing this before Castro took power, then he put the conspiracies together after Castro took power. He had gone to jail twice by then, my mom was sure that she would never see him again.”
Thus, the family decided they had to try to leave Cuba while it was still possible to do so and seek political assylum in the United States.
Hevia’s father, Roberto, using his full name of Roberto Rodriguez Hevia – a combination of paternal and maternal last names as is common in Latin American countries and in Spain – was able to pass through Cuba’s airport checkpoint undetected as blacklisted since he had commonly been using only the name Roberto R. Hevia for professional purposes. Raul Hevia said his father’s ability to pass through the airport blacklist checks was a miracle.
Raul Hevia’s mother followed a week later without complication, and she and Roberto Hevia were able to receive political asylum in the U.S. and receive work permits. They remained in Miami, Florida, for a short time where Roberto Hevia found work within one week.
“My dad was an entrepreneur, he was an architect, believed in hard work, never took one cent from the government except for that first month when he came to the United States – he probably got some food and some basic necessities – and he started working immediately,” Raul Hevia said.
The United States was the only country that did that for Cubans (provide permanent residency and work permit), Raul Hevia said.
“That was that, my family was free.”
From Miami, Florida, the Hevia family moved to Puerto Rico where Raul Hevia was raised and lived all his life until the age of 36 when he met a girl from southeast Idaho. The two married three months later. They lived in Puerto Rico for 10 months and then moved to the Salt Lake Valley where they lived for six and a half years before moving to St. George. It’s been 7½ years and Raul Hevia said he has no plans of leaving.
From his family’s experiences, Raul Hevia offers observations; he said:
I guess you could draw a lot of parallels to how a communist country operates, they use exactly the same M.O.’s (modus operandi) and scare tactics. They put wedges between classes and create class warfare. They divide the groups, divide the races, the whites against the black, the rich against the poor, they talk about ‘shared sacrifice’ for the good of the country. They are anti-capitalist, anti-business.
True communism will oppose all religion altogether, the more they can get away with, they will. They have increased the size of government; they want to tax the people to a point that they take all their wealth away.
A lot of people paying attention can see it. (But) a lot of people in this country have lived during a period of economic growth and prosperity that this nation has produced over 200 years now, they have lived with an amount of freedom that nobody else in this world enjoys as we do; so people have focused their lives on other things – family, work, taking care of their business. Then, you know, when newer cultures focus on pop cultures, they haven’t paid attention to more important issues, or (pausing to clarify) more transcendental issues, because they haven’t had to because freedom has been guaranteed to you. People are still in the mode of work, pop culture, family and they haven’t been paying attention to what congress has been doing and aren’t seeing that our freedoms are being threatened.
Departing from pure communism issues, Hevia said that even the United States Territory of Puerto Rico is a hot bed for residents with a socialist mentality. Raul Hevia lived in Puerto Rico the majority of his life, he said, which allows him to make observations.
“What prevails in Puerto Rico is a socialist mentality more than anything else because the U.S. government contributes more than half of Puerto Rico’s gross national product every year, over 22 billion dollars a year, so there is a lot of welfare programming,” he said. “The general mentality is pretty much a socialist mentality, ‘somebody else owes me’ – yeah, it’s the way people think over there – the quality of service they get in that state is not good quality, people suffer the consequences of that: Go to any government agency in Puerto Rico to get some paperwork through, you’ll see the most disgusting people, the government workers are very laid back, things don’t get done, it takes 10 times as long as it takes here.”
Raul Hevia offered insight on how a communist government controls even the simplest things:
“I can tell you how the teachers came in one day (in a Cuban classroom) and taught the children, 5 to 9 years old, how ‘GOD DOES NOT EXIST.’”
The teachers would say, ‘close your eyes, ask God to give you some candy,’ (the children obeyed), then the teachers would say, ‘open your eyes. No candy! Close your eyes again, ask Fidel to give you candy,’ (and the children did as instructed). And they would put a candy on each desk. ‘Open your eyes,’ said the teachers. There would be the candy and the children came to believe that it came from Fidel Castro. And this is how they brainwashed the children.
“They took the crucifixes off of every wall because Cuba was a Catholic country,” Raul Hevia said of the Cuban government. “They took them down and put up posters of Ché Guevara and Fidel Castro.”
Testimony to Florinda Hevia’s determination to take her children to a land where they were free to decide is that one of her sons is a Messianic Jew, the other son a Mormon and her daughter a Catholic. All are living free in America.
Raul Hevia has acute concern that policies in American government are leaning the direction of regimes he and his family are grateful to have fled. Living under a communist regime is no picnic, he said. Raul and Florinda Hevia said they regularly dispatch one shoe at a time, a week apart, to their cousin/niece who continues to reside in Cuba.
“(She) only gets one pair of shoes a year,” Hevia and his mother both said. “The government provides her a pair of shoes. They are the lowest quality, they don’t even last a month. We can send her stuff – if she needs a pair of shoes, we only send one shoe at a time because there is such a sparse availability of products that it is horrendous – you may have the money to buy something but may not be able to buy it – especially if they (the government) think you favor ‘the revolution’ – they still call it ‘the revolution’ after 50 years –there are not enough goods for thousands of people. We send one shoe at a time, a week apart, and hope they both get to her so she has a new pair.”
“The same thing happens with my cousin for food,” said Raul Hevia. “My cousin, herself, won’t eat so she can give her food to her daughter so she can eat enough to grow to have a strong body.”
As he applies his personal knowledge and experience in these things, Raul Hevia said, he sees indicators of erosions of freedoms dear to America actually in play. He considers them of grave concern and likens the trend to the proverbial frog in the pot of water that doesn’t react as the water is slowly heated to boiling.
Raul Hevia will be the co-host on Fox News Radio 1450 on the Perspectives Morning Show with Bryan and Jen, Friday, July 16, from 6-9 a.m.
Copyright St. George News 2011