"No matter how good things are here," Ninoska says, "you can never forget how bad things were back there." If either of them harbors bitterness or hatred, it's almost certainly not Roberto. Of course he has aged; his gray hair is now thin, but his face, dominated by an aquiline nose and luminous brown eyes, is barely lined. A member of the board of directors of the Cuban American National Foundation, he also runs a glass business.
Roberto is the first to say he's been fortunate compared to most of the former long-time political prisoners who have arrived in Miami. He's helped many of them find work, usually unskilled jobs they're thankful to have. "They need help in so many ways," Perez says. "They're traumatized. Most were so young when they went in that they don't have schooling or professions. They arrive very poor."
The themes of separation and reconnection that run through their lives, and the lives of displaced people everywhere, are whimsically expressed in one of Ninoska's statuettes. It's a simply carved virgin in long maize-color robes; both she and her infant Jesus are wearing tall black crowns on their heads. But when Ninoska bought the Madonna at an antique show several years ago, there was no baby in her arms. It was about six months later that, while browsing at the booth of a different vendor at another antique show, she happened to see a figurine of a baby painted in the same colors as her Madonna and wearing the same distinctive black crown. She took it home and set it in the mother's arms, where it fit so well no one could tell it hadn't always been there.
She has at her fingertips the telephone numbers of virtually every high-ranking bureaucrat in the government, including Castro.
"It's entertainment by humiliating and insulting people. She's one more person who makes a good living as part of the anticommunism industry."
"I called a restaurant saying I wanted to make reservations. They asked me if I was paying in dollars, and when I said no, they hung up.