Miami: Exiles

The Miami exiles are not anticommunist,” an exile named Carlos M. Luis said one night at dinner in Miami. It was about eleven o’clock, the preferred hour for dinner in those exile houses where Spanish manners still prevail, and there were at the table nine people, eight Cubans and me. There had been before Carlos Luis spoke a good deal of spirited argument. There had been a mounting rhythm of declamation and interruption. Now there was a silence. “The Miami exiles are not anticommunist,” Carlos Luis repeated. “I believe this. Anticommunism is not their motivation.”

Carlos Luis was the director of the Museo Cubano de Arte y Cultura in Miami, an interesting and complicated man who had entered exile with his wife in 1962, deciding to move to New York after the cultural restructuring which began in Cuba with the confiscation of Orlando Jiménez Leal’s documentary film P.M., or Pasado Meridiano, and led eventually to Fidel Castro’s declaration that there was no art, or would be no art, outside the revolution. “The P.M. affair,” as it was called in Miami, had plunged Havana into a spiral of confrontation and flagellation not unlike that which later characterized el exilio, and was for many a kind of turning point.

It was the P.M. affair, involving as it did the banning of a film showing “decadent” night life in Havana, which more or less codified such repressive moves as the persecution of homosexuals later examined by Orlando Jiménez Leal and the Academy Award-winning cinematographer Nestor Almendros, by then both in exile, in Mauvaise Conduite. It was the P.M. affair that had in fact gotten Nestor Almendros, at the time a young filmmaker who had written admiringly about P.M., fired from his job at Bohemia, the Havana weekly that had by then closed itself down and been restaffed by people closer to the direction in which the regime seemed to be moving. And it was the P.M. affair that had caused a number of Cuban artists and intellectuals to doubt that there would be room within this revolution for whatever it was that they might have valued above the revolution; to conclude that, as Carlos Luis put it, “it was time to leave, there was no more for me in staying.”

The first group left because they were Batistianos,” Carlos Luis said now, reaching for a bottle of wine. “The second group left because they were losing their property.” Carlos Luis paused, and poured an inch of wine into his glass. “Then,” he said, “the people started coming who were unhappy because they couldn’t get toothpaste.”

You mean these exiles were anti-Castro but not necessarily anticommunist,” our host, an exile, said, as if to clarify the point not for himself but for me.

Anti-Castro, yes.” Carlos Luis had shrugged. “Anti-Castro it goes without saying.”

That the wish to see Fidel Castro removed from power in Cuba did not in itself constitute a political philosophy …

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