"American people are not out to do anything significant to transform their condition," says Ridenour. "All they are about are their corn flakes. I began to hate them, and you can't organize people you hate."

Ironically, Ridenour hasn't found it any easier to "organize" in Cuba. "I'm the least political I've been in my life," he muses. "Everything is closed. The media is closed. You can't demonstrate."

Of the dozens of black militants who hijacked planes to Cuba in the late Sixties and early Seventies, only a handful remain. Some are dead. Some have slipped away to Africa or parts unknown. Others have returned to face charges in the U.S. One, Raymond Johnson, left the island for Miami in 1986, saying that he would have more liberty in an American jail cell than as a free man in Havana.

According to Michael Finney, hijacking partner Ralph Goodwin drowned in 1975, trying to save a stricken Cuban swimmer. Finney's other partner in the crime, Charlie Hill, 42 years old now and graying at the temples, has dedicated himself to the Santeria religion. He lives in a comfortable, three-room house.

"I was a young cat then," Hill says of the days that led up to the TWA hijacking. "Everyone hung out with the Panthers. If you believe in something, you die for it."

Neither Hill nor Michael Finney has any intention of returning to the States to stand trial. The two still face charges of murder and air piracy, both of which are punishable by the death penalty. In Albuquerque, Doug Beldon, an FBI special agent, knows where Finney and Hill are, but he also knows there isn't much the FBI can do about it. "People in the law enforcement business face all kinds of risks every day," says Beldon. "They get real upset when officers get hurt in the line of duty. [Officer Rosenbloom's killers] still haven't paid the price."

The United States today bears no resemblance to Sixties America, but changes may be on the horizon in Cuba as well. To some, the fall of Communist leaders in Eastern Europe prompts the question of whether Fidel Castro will suffer the same fate. Even if Castro's government is not toppled, some say, el sistema will be forced to adapt to cuts in Soviet aid and the loss of preferential trading status with Eastern bloc nations. Any change in Cuba's diplomatic relations with the United States could affect Michael Finney's status.

But after nearly twenty years in Cuba, Finney says he's not particularly concerned about the crumbling of the Soviet bloc. "It doesn't make me nervous," he says. "I'm not afraid."

And what about that tumultuous November night? If he could replay those decisive moments, would he select the path that led him here? Would he again choose a life in exile? Finney won't even speculate. "It's not the same moment in history," Finney explains. "There is not an anti-colonialist revolution going on in Africa. There is no Black Panther Party. Conditions are different. The Nineties are not the Sixties.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets