Often, it makes life easier to have a little small talk. So I listened in on what they were saying and I guarantee you that if you are talking to anyone in Iowa over the age of thirty here is an instant conversation starter:
“Do you think Ronnie Harmon threw the Rose Bowl in 1986?”
Some background – in Iowa, college football is a BIG deal, because they don’t have any pro sports. The University of Iowa is the main football powerhouse, and they had an opportunity to win the Rose Bowl in 1986, after a 10-1 season. Ronnie Harmon, their star running back, only had 1 fumble for the WHOLE YEAR prior to this game. In this game, however, he fumbled the ball FOUR times and dropped a likely touchdown pass, to boot. Here is a link to a posting on whether or not he threw the game, which was apparently featured in an HBO series. Make no doubt about it, this is a lively topic for people from Iowa, if you don’t believe me try it out (but make sure they were alive and watching the game in 1986… that was a while ago).
Similarly, and the real topic of this post, if you want to get someone from Cuba talking who lives in the United States, ask them the following question:
“Did your family own land in Cuba before Castro? Do you have any plans if he dies?”
My sample size of Cuban acquaintances immediately jumps at this question just like the people of Iowa did for Mr. Harmon. Inevitably, the following points are returned:
- Our family had a big estate that was unjustly seized by the communists (usually with some loss of blood or people thrown in jail for years)
- We know exactly where it is and may or may not have visited it over the years when we returned to Cuba
- We plan on getting it back when the communists fall, since it is rightly ours
In my head the entire country of Cuba is like a big real estate market, except that the signs aren’t officially “up” yet. As soon as Castro falls and there is any sort of property market (or other way of getting that land back), millions of Cubans will do their best to recover that land that they feel was unjustly seized from their family.
While I sympathize 100% with their cause and I am sure that many of them were treated unjustly by Castro, it is interesting when I ask them what to do with the people that are living on their property today, some of whom have lived there for fifty years? The Cuban Americans I have talked to aren’t that concerned about these people, since they view them as squatters living on their land, and I am sure that they will be even less sensitive if they have to buy back their land that they owned in the first place.
I can’t think of a situation where so much land is desired by so many people with the money to buy it. When East Germany fell there were some land claims by West Germans but most of this appears to have been settled in an orderly fashion. I don’t think it will happen that way with Cuba, especially since many of the Cubans on Cuba have been impoverished by Fidel’s brutal and insane economic policies while the Cubans in America have generally done very well and amassed assets in the freest major economy in the world. In addition, the few Cubans ON Cuba who have money are the least deserving since they were cronies of Fidel or they wouldn’t have had the lucrative concessions that allowed them to earn their fortune… it is likely that these people will be treated with particular disdain by the returnees…
In any case, it is going to be interesting to watch, and it is a sure conversation-starter if you run out of something to say to a Cuban American.