Castro’s exit brings memories

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — When Fidel Castro’s retirement was made public on Tuesday it likely impacted few Natchez residents.

But for one it brought back a flood of memories.

Ellen Hefley lived with her family in Havana, Cuba until she was 11.

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“It was beautiful,” she said.

As Hefley looked over old family photos and memorabilia from her time in Cuba, her eyes looked as if she had gone back to Havana, if only for a brief moment.

She proudly pointed out her father’s office and her family’s home in photos that have started to yellow with age.

Hefley’s father, Edwin Ogden, went to Cuba with his father and worked as a merchandise broker.

Hefley was born in Cuba, and while she was technically an American citizen, for her Cuba was the only home she had known.

But when Castro began his power takeover in 1960, the family had to leave.

Hefley said for her own safety, her parents never fully explained the Cuba situation while the family lived there.

Hefley said Castro’s régime favored getting any information from young children.

On Feb. 6, 1960, the family told their friends in Havana they were going to Mardi Gras and never came back.

“And that was it,” she said. “That was our home.”

But sadly, even though Castro is no longer in power, Hefley does not have high hopes for the future of Cuba.

Castro’s brother Raul has been put in charge.

“I really don’t think much will change,” she said. “The people there still do not have their freedom.”

Hefley said the people of Cuba will not be free until they rise up and take back their country.

Only then will she go back to Cuba.

But when Hefley looks back on her time there, she remembers it with both fondness and luck.

“At least we escaped with our lives,” she said. “So many people did not.”