Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From Fidel to freedom

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This post originally appeared here several days ago; I wanted to reprise it this rainy election day morning. Thank you.
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It's a rough time for those of us not basking in the radiant light of the Annointed One. While pondering the frightening list of influential people in the life of the Democratic party's candidate, I've been thinking a great deal about one of the most influential people of my school years.

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Mrs. Yolanda Gomez was my Spanish language teacher in high school, and a refugee from Castro's Cuba.

In between our regular class lessons covering regular and reflexive verbs and reciting our little dialogos, Mrs. Gomez would, from time to time, share her personal experiences. More riveting than any television show and definitely more engaging than our textbooks, her real life adventures had us riveted. She told of how the regime came into power, the fear and deaths that followed, how she was forced out of her life as owner of a girls' school, escaping the mounting terror with her young son, on the run for their lives to America for sanctuary and freedom. We would sit transfixed as this incredible personal history unfolded in her rich Cuban accent. When the class bell rang we'd be jolted back to our reality. We'd gather up our things and move on to our next class.

Some years ago she passed away, and I never got to properly thank her. But I'm so honored to have met her, to have known her, to have experienced her generous spirit.

Mrs. Gomez was an unapologetic champion of America, eager to tell true stories of oppression and loss in her homeland, warning us again and again that freedom was more important than anything. She was a tireless advocate for our education and success. I can recall when it came to light during my senior year that I'd won a small, local journalism recognition, she scolded me for not sharing the news with her right away. "This is a great thing," she enthused. "I am very proud of you. You should have told me!"

Nobody who had the outgoing and exuberant Mrs. Gomez for a teacher could possibly forget her. I wish we all could have had someone like her in our lives. Her passion for young people, for teaching, and her endless gratitude for the freedom of this great country was in evidence every day.

I'm quite certain that this unabashed patriot is now turning over in her grave as the country she grew to love so much seems poised to elect a man whose policies have the outspoken approval of Fidel Castro.

Enduring harrowing adventures right out of a Robert Ludlum novel, Yolanda Gomez was able to (barely) escape with the help of a nameless American and arrive on our soil with her son. In the sort of patriotic story of self-motivation liberals love to roll their eyes at, she looked at her new country with a feeling of hope and gratitude, applied herself with fierce determination, and left a legacy of enlightenment that far exceeded the conjugation of Spanish verbs.

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Thank you, Mrs. Yolanda Gomez, and others like you.

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Val Prieto said...

Her handwritten note to you nailed me. Im in tears.

Hank Ortuno said...

Thank you Brenda,
Your post is important not only to Cubans, but to all freedom loving people.

brenda cox giguere said...

Thank you, Val and Hank, for your warm and thoughtful comments. With people like you in this country, I have hope.

~Zurama~ said...

I'm with Val! I can't read about Cuba and Freedom without falling apart! What an inspiring story!