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From Hell to Paradise

Posted by Diane Brunet-Garcia on Nov 29, 2016 11:30 AM


Singer songwriter Raul Malo, born in exile of Cuban parents in 1965, grew up in Miami, where he co-founded The Mavericks in 1989. In 1992, only 5 years in to my marriage to Jorge, the Miami-based band released “From Hell to Paradise.”

By then, I had begun to absorb my husband’s Cuban culture and was growing to love his family’s customs, food, and music, almost as much as I loved my own culture’s country music. When Jorge brought home a CD featuring a country band out of Miami, I was a little surprised, but couldn’t wait to sample it. I immediately loved the hybrid Latin and rockabilly sound, but was completely stopped by the title track – track number 6, the songwriter's homage to his aunt, upon her release from imprisonment by the Castro regime for nothing more than simple protest. The raw emotional power of Raul Malo’s music and lyrics in “From Hell to Paradise” fired my desire to truly understand the complicated, visceral pain and loss that Jorge’s family lived with daily, 30 years post-exile.

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On Saturday as Fidel Castro's death was widely reported (over 50 years post-exile), raw emotion again won out. It inspired impassioned family phone calls, took hold of Twitter, and ignited political debate across social media. After a somewhat surreal, overwrought day which included Jorge posting the Cuban flag outside our Jacksonville home, that night I ran across "From Hell to Paradise" and reflected on the evolution of my emotional and intellectual education regarding the plight of millions of Cuban exiles flung far and wide. 

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Here's the Raul Malo song that first awakened me to the complex, heart-wrenching dynamics of the Cuban diaspora, far too real for so many so close to my heart. Offering testament to the transformative power of music, this one stanza radically and permanently changed my perspective back in 1992.  

This ninety-mile trip
Has taken thirty years to make
They tried to keep
Forever what was never theirs to take
I cursed and scratched the devil's hand
As he stood in front of me
One last drag from his big cigar
And he finally set me free

From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price
From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price

Con ojos tiernos algun dia te mirare
Con brases abiertos algun dia abrasare
Hay mi Havana cuando pueda regresare

With tender eyes someday I'll look at you
With open arms someday I'll embrace you
My old Havana someday I will return



Versailles Photo-Miami Erupts.jpg        photo credit: Nick Reyes @Nirview