Fidel Castro’s daughter tells of life in Cuba and her escape

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Alina Fernandez was 10 years old when she learned Fidel Castro was her biological father.

Until then, she believed that her mother's husband, who fled the country with her sister at the beginning of the Revolution, was her father. After he left, a familiar face began showing up at Fernandez's house at night: the face of the man she saw on TV for hours each day, Cuba's leader.

"This man, the man who stepped out of the TV screen and into my living room, Fidel Castro, visited my house mostly at night," Fernandez recalled. "I continued to grow up in a very bizarre atmosphere because with his presence, he made my mother joyful."

Speaking to a packed ballroom in Auburn University's Student Center Wednesday night, she weaved intrigue and humor through her story of her parents and her childhood in Cuba.

"At age 10, I was told the nightly visitor was my real father," she said. "I wasn't too surprised. To be honest, I felt relief."

That relief came because the man she grew up believing to be her father fled the country and took her sister when the Revolution began. Fernandez said she no longer had to write at school that her father and sister had left Cuba.

But, life quickly changed for her when she became a messenger to her father from the people of Cuba who wanted change. When it was time for Fernandez to be legally recognized as a descendent of Castro, she didn't want that affiliation. She chose to flee the country.

"Some personal friends in America obtained money for the operation of escape," she said.

Fernandez came to American disguised as a Spanish tourist. She arrived on Dec. 19, 1993 and her daughter joined her on Dec. 31. They were able to celebrate the new year with their newfound freedom.

"I discovered freedom is something you have to fight for every day of your life," she said.

She returned to Cuba for the first time last year when her mother passed away. "Since 2008, things are starting to move a little bit," she said. "It's different to grow up in Cuba now than it was in my generation."

Fernandez was the keynote speaker at the kickoff event for Hispanic Heritage Month. Sponsored by the Multicultural Center and the Auburn Latino Association for Students, the event also included performances by the Auburn University Mosaic Theatre Company and Axé Capoeira Atlanta.

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