Rafael Cruz Remembers Life in Cuba
To shed some light on the death of Fidel Castro, I did an interview with Senator Ted Cruz's father Rafael, who lived under the oppressive regime of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Have you ever had experiences in which you felt as though your government was taking unfair advantage of you, and it seemed as though you had no power to do anything about it? Have you written your congressman, senator, or county commissioner several times and only received form-letter responses? I suppose that everyone has felt that way from time to time. On the other hand, after you've finished complaining, did you ever feel that your life was threatened? If not, you've never lived under a dictatorship.
As Americans, we take freedom for granted because we've always had it. That's why it's important for us to hear from those who have lived in places where freedom doesn't exist.
"I was 17 years old when I spoke out publicly against the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista," said Rafael Cruz, who was born in Cuba. As a result of his opposition to the brutal tactics being used against his people, he became a recipient of that brutality. Rafael was arrested, thrown in a cell, and repeatedly beaten by prison guards. "Every four hours, they'd come back in my cell to beat me again," he said. "The pain became so unbearable that I lost feeling in my arms and legs," he added reflectively. About a year later, with the help of his parents, he was able to flee the autocratic island and he found his way to Austin, Texas. Fearing that he might be robbed before he got away, his mother had sewn $100 into his underwear to give him a start in his new country. Although he didn't speak English, he had a voracious appetite for education and a strong work ethic.
"I used to go to the movies to listen to the actors speaking English and watch carefully how they formed the words," Rafael said. "In those days, you could stay in the theater to see the movies over and over, so I would spend as many hours as possible, absorbing the words and speech patterns until I was able to grasp the language." He also carried an English dictionary with him all the time and constantly studied it. He got a job washing dishes and worked seven days a week to pay for a college education at the University of Texas, where he met his future wife. They both had a natural aptitude for mathematics, so they immersed themselves in technical fields of study. Soon after graduating, they started their own business, doing seismic data processing for oil companies. From this very inauspicious beginning, they raised a son who became the state solicitor general, representing Texas in cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Among General Ted Cruz's victories was the defense of the Ten Commandments monument that stands on the state capitol grounds. Cruz won a 5-4 decision of the high court. He also defended the Pledge of Allegiance and won a unanimous decision after a federal court of appeals ruled against the words "one nation under God." Their son went on to defeat Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst in the GOP primary in 2012, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in the general election.
To recap, the son of a Cuban immigrant, who fled a dictatorship to find freedom in America, raised a son who became a member of the most powerful legislative body in the world and who became a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
During a lunch meeting at my home, the senior Cruz also talked about the Fidel Castro regime, which came to power in 1959 after a revolution that drove Batista into exile. Sadly, they replaced one dictator with another. "Castro rations food, clothing, and all the other things we take for granted here," Rafael said. "The people are allowed to buy a pound of meat per month. If you violate the rules, you get thrown in prison for years." He related a story about a friend from Cuba who visited Texas a few years ago and went to dinner at a restaurant. "When he saw the size of the steak on his plate, he began to cry," Rafael said. "'This amount of meat would feed my family for a month.'"
When Rafael Cruz speaks at Republican gatherings in Denton County, Texas and across the United States, his passion for this country is palpable. "Except for the Bible, the two greatest documents ever written are the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence," he says, with fingers jabbing at the air.
Perhaps we shouldn't be blamed for not cherishing our freedom because we've always had it, much like people who have always been rich; hence, they can't relate to being poor. Those who often forget how great this country is should spend an hour with Rafael Cruz to get an idea of how lucky they are.