Tracey Eaton

Tracey Eaton

The plantation once resembled a company town. It had a store, bakery, restaurant, bar, hotel, bookkeeping office, cockfighting ring and school. Photo: Tracey Eaton

Fidel Castro in three acts

Biran Fidel Castro was born on his father’s sugar plantation near the town of Biran in eastern Cuba on Aug. 13, 1926. His father, Angel Castro, was an immigrant from Spain. His mother, Lina, was a former maid. They had seven children: Four sisters, Angelita, Juanita, Emma and Augustina; and three sons, Ramon, Fidel and Raul. Fidel Castro grew up around poor immigrants from Haiti, Barbados and other Caribbean nations. They worked on his father’s plantation, which has been restored and is open to tourists. Castro attended Mixed Rural School No. 15 on the grounds of the plantation. On a clear summer morning, historian Alietty Castro walked into the one-room school and pointed out Fidel Castro’s seat in the classroom. “He studied here when he was very small,” said Castro, who is not related to the former Cuban leader. “Ever since he was very little, he was quite intelligent, very restless, but also very astute. He was a person who from an early age identified with the children in the area.” The parents of most of those children were poor and worked on the sugar plantation. Living and studying among the poor likely helped develop Castro’s interest in social justice,...

Kentucky Refugee Ministries is one of two non-profit agencies that is helping to resettle Cubans who arrive in Louisville. The other agency is Catholic Charities

Cubans in Louisville

Louisville, a city famous for horseracing and fried chicken, has become a hotspot for Cuban immigration. Cubans are now the fastest growing immigrant population in Louisville and are poised to overtake Mexicans as the largest immigrant group, city officials say. What's remarkable is that most of the Cubans come from just two Cuban provinces: Holguín and Camagüey. Many Cuban immigrants were from those two provinces early on. Word spread that Louisville was a sort of promised land for Cubans, and more travelers from Holguín and Camagüey set out for the city. Immigrants who arrived recently from Cuba attend an orientation session at Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Louisville "There are so many people here from Holguín and Camagüey that I think those provinces are going to empty out," jokes Dalay Méndez. She heads the Cuba office at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which resettles immigrants in Louisville. Her office has been swamped with newcomers from Cuba. She knows what they're going through. She and her husband arrived from Camagüey in 2002. Méndez says it was a difficult adjustment, "not knowing anyone, not knowing where to go, not speaking the language." But Méndez persevered. "I feel at home now," she says. "I like...

Naomi, Daniela and Yessi / Photo: Tracey Eaton

Transgender Cubans struggle for equal rights in macho Cuba

Just past 4 a.m., most of the bars and clubs have closed down and the party has spilled into the streets. Yessi Castro, 28, had hoped to find a boyfriend willing to spend some time and money with her that night, but had no luck. Now she has no money for a taxi home, so she’ll have to wait until the buses start running again at 5 a.m. Castro lives seven miles away in a neighborhood called Arroyo Naranjo. Her concrete block home sits along an unpaved road near the bottom of a hill. “It will take me more than an hour to get home,” she says. But she’s upbeat and smiling. She spots a friend with a bottle of rum, grabs it from his hands and takes a few swigs. Two police officers stroll by, bothering no one. Waves ripple along the Malecón, Havana’s famed seawall, just 400 feet away. A buxom transgender wearing a short skirt steps onto the sidewalk at the corner of Infanta and 23rd streets. “Wow!” Castro says. “She looks divine.” Castro says she’d love to have a pair of breast implants herself, but the operation can be risky. Some transgender patients acquire implants illegally,...