National Geographic : 1973 Jul
-u nderground groups, each with three to eight people-all over the island. Ours is a fight that cannot be stopped. We will die, if we must, for the freedom of our country." "We are working very closely with Castro's army," Nazario asserted. "Our people include some highly placed officers. Now we are pre paring a big action to move the country!" Emilio removed the chair from the door with a cheery, optimistic smile, and I left. All Cubans in Miami share the hopes of Alpha 66, but few are as optimistic. About 15 percent have become U. S. citizens, and as the months and years of exile slip by, many more will do so. Still there are some-partic ularly among the elderly-who find it difficult to adjust to life here. When I stopped for gas at Johnny Fumero's service station, his 75-year-old father filled the tank and polished the windshield. "Are you happy here in Miami?" I asked. He would not go that far. "Tranquilo," he conceded. For 41 years he had prospered as a dentist in Cuba. Now it was probably too late to undergo retraining and qualify to prac tice his profession in the United States. AndI suspect that some people, like Erasmo Castro, have succumbed to creeping despair and will never adjust at all. A balding man with skin the color of polished walnut, he spent most of his life as a fisherman on the south coast of Cuba. When told he could no longer sell his fish to whomever he pleased that the state would buy it, or no one-he balked, and set sail one night with seven others. A tanker picked them up 11 days later off the coast of Texas. Today Erasmo shares a tiny apartment near the Miami River and catches snapper, grouper, and lobster off the Keys. He can choose his buyer now, but it is not the same. After a decade in Miami he still speaks no English, though he can study it free at the English Center, sponsored by the Cuban Ref ugee Program, as thousands of others have done. He shrugs a hopeless shrug. "Al pescao no le importa la lengua," he said. "To the fish, the language doesn't matter." And melancholy flooded his voice: "Oh, I know this is a good country. But it is yours, not mine. When someone takes your country away from you, you have lost everything." Many suffer the same yearning for their homeland, but none I spoke to would return UUl uT FLI HL , nULrL, ULA M. , . Symbols of courage, boats that carried Cuban refugees to freedom lie abandoned at the U. S. Coast Guard Base in Key West. More than one such craft has been found bobbing empty after storms in the Straits of Florida. Of the refugees who made it safely, many see little chance of ever returning to Cuba. Eligible for U. S. citizenship after five years, Cuban exiles (right) take the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.