I grew up in Jamaica. I am Jamaican through and through and I love my country dearly, but there was a point when I was a child when I hated living in Jamaica. I also feared what my country had become, most of which was due to what I learned from listening to my parents and seeing for myself what I had to go through.
In the 1970s I lived in West Kingston. I went to the local primary school and the ruling party at the time was the PNP. Michael Manley who was then the Prime Minister in Jamaica adopted the maxim of Democratic Socialism. It wasn't quite capitalism and it wasn't full on communism. His friends during this time were Russia and Cuba and there was a steady stream of both in Jamaica.
They ostensibly (mostly the Cubans) came to build schools (Jose Marti still stands as well as GC Foster College) and they sent their doctors, teachers and nurses to care for us in our schools and hospitals in Jamaica. Most of our teachers, doctors and nurses had left Jamaica and the talk at that time was the last person leaving Jamaica, please turn off the lights.
Most of the moneyed class in Jamaica left, and with them leaving, most of the money in Jamaica. Companies locked their doors and things as we knew it in Jamaica were drawing to a halt.
The media did a good job of telling the story from the views of the opposition. There were rumours that those of us who had houses (and my dad had just bought a house in Portmore) would have to share our houses. Food shortages were now a regular thing and it was not unusual for us to have as our Sunday dinner dumplings and banana rather than the traditional rice and peas. Rice, flour, sugar, condensed milk and many other basic food items were scarce. As I got older I understood that it was because of our country's relationship with Cuba and that the USA (instigated by the CIA) were responsible for the food shortages.
In 1980 when the USA backed JLP came to power, food shortages became a thing of the past and we could finally get American apples once again (not that we ever needed it).
As I got older and became a bit more enlightened, I started to read more about that time. I found out that Fidel Castro, along with Michael Manley was instrumental in the tearing down of apartheid in South Africa. I learned about the freedom fighters in Angola. I listened to the songs of Bob Marley, especially WAR which spoke about the tribulations of peoples in Africa and I became more conscious.
I have always been on the fence when it came to Cuba. On the one hand I believe in free and fair elections and for democratic rule. I don't like authoritarian figures (hence my dislike of the GOP and Donald Trump). However, one of the things that Cuba has done under Fidel Castro is to be a voice for the voiceless (controversial I know). He spearheaded the movement that has now led to a free Southern Africa. Cuba under Fidel Castro ensured that a young girl like me in Jamaica could have a nutritious lunch every day at school.
It has been said that most of the people who left Jamaica in the 70s and took their money with them flew to the Cayman Islands and established businesses here. They helped to set up the offshore industry which has made Cayman profitable. Meanwhile, Jamaica suffered.
It is interesting that most of the Cubans who left Cuba when Castro took power are themselves the rich elite who set up businesses in America and made it their life's work to oppose that regime. I am sure that with the election of Trump and the death of Castro they are probably dancing in the streets.
Yes, Castro was controversial. Yes, he was a dictator, but at the end of the day, one cannot deny that in his mind and heart he had his fellow man's interest at heart.
May he rest in peace.