CLINTON, Iowa (KWQC) – As Cuba observes nine days of mourning after the death of communist leader Fidel Castro, a local man remembers his time in the country, and shares his hopes for its future.
“To me it’s a relief,” said Rev. Ray Gimenez.
Like several Cuban-Americans across the U.S, Rev. Gimenez of Clinton was not saddened by the death of long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“We feel that the end of the evil empire has come to a close,” he said.
Gimenez and his family left Cuba as Castro’s rise to power began
“Both of them when they saw communism coming in, they opposed it and they escaped to the United States,” Gimenez said of his father and grandfather.
The two men headed to New York where they worked for a year and a half to bring the rest of their family over, including a young Gimenez.
“I was eleven, eleven years old when that happened, so I remember a lot of things,” Gimenez said.
He, his mother and siblings lived in hardship from late 1959 until coming to the U.S. in ’61.
“They confiscated our home, our place to stay and they confiscated us from being in school also,” the reverend said. “We were literally homeless.”
After escaping to the America, it was 44 years before Gimenez was able to visit his home country.
“2005, it was the first visit that I took, and it was like time stood still,”he said.
Gimenez made it back to his original home, where the poverty he left behind in childhood remains.
“You know the control by the government is really a tremendous hardship and it’s hard for them to make ends meet,” he said.
Now he hopes the death of Castro means new beginnings for his family still in Cuba.
“I sense that the people are going to cry out, and I think the people here, the Cuban-Americans here, they’re also going to cry out,” Gimenez said.
Gimenez also said with Castro’s brother Raul announcing his retirement by the end of next year, he hopes a new face will lead Cuba in a new direction.
“My hope and my prayer is that some young man will come in there with new ideas that would truly revolutionize the country and bring freedom back to you know to the Cuban people,” Gimenez said.
A renewed economic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has made it easier for Gimenez to visit family and help them out, as well as preach in Cuba. Gimenez said he hopes to bring as much Cuban-American family with him to Cuba this coming August for a big family reunion.