Castro's daughter speaks to attentive crowd at UWP

March 13, 2003

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UWP student Alex Roelli visits with Fidel Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernandez, during her book signing at the Pioneer Student Center. Fernandez signed several copies of her book, “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba.”

PLATTEVILLE-Fidel Castro's illegitimate daughter, Alina Fernandez, held a crowd of about 2,500 captive during her speech Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Williams Fieldhouse.

UWP students, faculty and administration listened spellbound to Fernandez' account of growing up in her dictator father's shadow during the Cuban revolution.

Fernandez's 55-minute speech, "An Intimate Look at Castro's Cuba," gave an overview of Cuba's revolutionary times and the secret but torrid romance between her mother and Castro while he was in prison.

But Castro was married to someone else, and was writing letters to two women, his wife and Fernandez's mother. A classic failure to communicate developed, said Fernandez, when the letters got mixed up. When he was liberated, he was freed from both his marriage and prison simultaneously, she said.

Although her mother and Castro did not marry, the romance survived.

"They met secretly and conceived Alina," said Fernandez, pointing to herself.

After Fernandez was born in 1956, revolution plans gained momentum, said Fernandez, who recalled watching "hairy men, guerillas," from her window. The view from her rocking chair, while in diapers was frightening. "I met my father when I was taken from the crib," she said. "He was in the midst of others, all in clouds of cigar smoke."

When Fernandez was 3-years-old, she watched executions taking place on television. "Mickey Mouse disappeared from the TV screen. I was one of those children who used to pray in front of the TV set to just have an hour of entertainment."

At age 10, Fernandez was told the man who visited her and her mother by night - Fidel Castro - was her father. "I had hoped for a father who would help me with my homework and tell me fairy tales," she said.

But Castro was too heavily involved in his government's overthrow to be that kind of father.

"As a teenager, I screamed out slogans and marched in a uniform," said Fernandez. The rumble of tanks accompanied her father's lengthy speeches, which lasted eight or nine hours.

Her famous dictator father controlled the press and telephone systems, executing leaders who opposed him, Fernandez said. "He imprisoned whole families, including children. Cubans lived in an atmosphere of fear and hate."

The hatred - and blame when things went wrong - was directed to Americans, said Fernandez. "We were brainwashed with hate for America."

Fernandez said she escaped with her daughter from Cuba to the United States "on a falsified passport" because she could not accept the country's educational system. "These were state educational schools where children were separated from their families," she said.

Currently, Fernandez lives in Miami, Fla., with her 25-year-old daughter.

UWP students were appreciative of Fernandez's appearance. Cuba City native Rachel Dietzel, a senior math major, said she valued the time spent listening to Castro's daughter. "It was interesting, learning the difference between the Cuban and American aspect of the revolution," said Dietzel.

Watertown native and UWP senior Dan Scher, a criminal justice and business finance major, echoed Dietzel's comments. "This is the best speech I've been to this year," Scher said.

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