Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

His Adopted Island Is Truly Paradise Found

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

His Adopted Island Is Truly Paradise Found

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. | The tag on the front of Luis Haza's Jeep says, "I'm on island time."

He was born on another island, Cuba, which explains why it is hard to understand some of the words he chooses from his expansive vocabulary. If music is the universal language, there may be none who speak with more eloquence or clarity than Haza does with his violin.

"We try to sing with it,'' he said, raising his left arm as if cradling the delicate instrument against his neck. "It's right here, beside the vocal cords."

He performed more than 30 years with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, has performed solo at the White House, was music director of the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras and has led the London Symphony Orchestra. That is far from all he had done with a bow and baton.

For all the sweetness of the violin, if you want to hear a hard edge, ask him about Fidel Castro. Or ask him what he thinks about the people who wear those Che Guevara T-shirts.

"It might as well be Hitler,'' he said. "He was responsible for the summary execution of thousands of Cubans and helping Fidel Castro bring down the economy. He didn't accomplish anything. It was destroy, destroy, destroy."

His father, Bonafacio Haza, was chief of the Cuban national police and among those Castro had killed, although he had worked for the overthrow of Batista.

"My father wanted free elections, free elections without corruption,'' Haza said.

Those aren't the kinds of elections Castro wanted.

"He was executed without trial Jan. 12, 1956," Haza said.

He faced a bleak future until April 18, 1964, when his mother, her daughter and four sons were allowed to leave Cuba, the day he says he obtained his freedom.

His mother's brother was Castro's minister of education and arranged to get them out.

"He was close to Castro. He was able to save our lives,'' Haza said.

Haza predicted he would have died had he stayed in Cuba.

"I could never have served in Castro's army,'' he said, and the penalty for such a refusal was death or a concentration camp, "where you die anyway. …

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