Retired PSU Professor Was Witness to Cuban History

PLYMOUTH — Retired Plymouth State University professor Dr. Manuel Marquez-Sterling says that Cuba's history would have been very different had his father, Carlos Marquez-Sterling, prevailed in the Nov. 3, 1958, election.

''My father should have won. But there was huge electoral fraud by Fulgencio Batista and the Army and Fidel Castro's forces kept many people from voting at all. In some places Batista's forces just filled the ballot boxes with ballots they had filled out,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who was born in Havana and practiced law in Cuba before coming to the United States in 1960.

He has documented the period in a book, "Cuba 1952-1959: The True Story of Castro's Rise to Power," which was published in 2009. He says his book destroys many myths about Cuba and shows that it was a prosperous and progressive country, and in the fast lane to become a First World country with a large middle class, a fine educational system open to all classes, and with high standards of living.

''We had the third-best economy in the Americas. Only the United States and Canada were better, off,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who says that under Castro the economy was transformed from one that had been growing rapidly into that of a Third World country.

He is withholding judgment on President Barak Obama's move to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, but is concerned that Obama wasn't able to gain concessions on human rights from the Castro government. ''Will they continue to control the press as closely as they have? They have to make concessions,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who maintains that the Cuban economy is getting even worse, especially now that oil prices have dropped worldwide and that Venezuela will no longer be able to help prop up the Castro government.

''A cautious observer just has to wait and see. My fear is that the U.S. may end up as an ally of the Castro regime.'' he says.

He is the co-author, along with father, of the "History of the Island of Cuba," and also published his father's memoirs. His father was also the founder of the Manuel Marquez Sterling School of Journalism at the University of Havana.
His father, who had served as president of the Cuban House of Representatives, was detained many times during he 1950s for his opposition to the Batista dictatorship and was placed under house arrest after Castro took over power on Jan. 1, 1959. He later fled the country and came to the United States where he taught at Columbia University.
Marquez-Sterling and his wife, Gloria, left Cuba along with their infant son in June 1960.

''We had $350 and a small suitcase. We thought that we would be going back some day. We came here to oppose Castro and his revolution,'' says Gloria.

He looked for a job and landed one cleaning a supermarket in Miami, a major change from being a lawyer and a probate judge. The couple later moved to the Washington, D.C., area where he found a job selling shoes before landing a job as a Spanish teacher at a prep school.

Marquez-Sterling said that during that time they saved up many boxes, with the intention of using them to take their belongings with them whenever they returned to Cuba. But that all changed during the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962.

''We watched President Kennedy's speech about the missile crisis and I told my wife, 'Throw all the boxes away. We're not going back. Now we're part of the Cold War.'''

Marquez-Sterling went on to teach at Ricker College in Maine and landed a job teaching history at what was then Plymouth State Teachers College in 1966. Retired from his faculty position, he now holds the title of professor emeritus.

''I told my wife we'd be here two years. Well it turned out to be a lot longer than that. We fell in love with the area and I was doing what I was trained for.'' he says.

A lifelong baseball fan, who remembers seeing Minnie Minoso play in Cuba before he signed with the Chicago White Sox, Marquez-Sterling was featured in the Ken Burns series ''Baseball'' which was released in 1994. Among the items left behind in Cuba were dozens of baseball pictures signed by major league stars.

He and his wife note that there are 2.5 million Cubans who have left the country during Castro's rule and wonder what will be in store for them in the future.
''We're political refugees. Castro ran the island like a plantation and ruined its economy to the point where they now even have to import sugar. The average pay there is like $20 a month. Cuba is gasping for air. Will the refugees even be allowed to go inside Cuba?'' he asks.

Both say they have no interest in ever returning to Cuba as long as the Castro regime still holds power.

''What has changed? I don't want to see my homeland from a hotel.'' says Marquez-Sterling, who says he admires the sense of humor which has helped the Cuban people sustain themselves under Castro.

''You can be arrested if you have meat in your refrigerator or if you kill a milking cow for meat. So it seems that people are saying that their cows are committing suicide by getting hit by cars or trucks. That way they get to eat the meat without fear of being arrested.''

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Bestway seeks approval to expand Belmont facility

BELMONT – Bestway Disposal Services has submitted a request for a site plan change to allow the firm to accept municipal solid waste at its Belmont facility.

The permit modification would allow them to take in not more than 600 tons of debris a day. Right now the facility accepts recyclable material and construction and demolition debris and handles about 503 tons per day.

Collection of municipal solid waste has been an acceptable use in that zoning district since voters approved a zoning amendment last March.

In their application, which needs a site plan approval from the Belmont Planning Board, and an approval from the N.H Department of Environmental Services, the company said it would have no significant impact to the site because the existing facility is already large enough to process the extra tonnage.

The site plan change said it could expect a minimal increase in traffic in the area, but because most refuse hauling trucks already drive past their facility at 34 Industrial Drive on their way to Penacook and Wheelabrator, it likely won't be noticeable.

Belmont is one of a number of communities that decided not to renew its contract with Waste Management and Wheelabrator beginning in January of 2015. Bestway has said it wants to accept municipal solid waste from those communities who didn't renew with Waste Management.

Bestway will bring the municipal waste to its landfill in Allenstown. Waste Management brings its waste to Penacook where it is incinerated.

The proposal said adding municipal solid waste to its range of services in Belmont will decrease the cost of waste collection by allowing haulers to discharge their waste closer than Penacook, saving the communities who use them money.

Belmont is one of the towns in the area that chose not to renew its contract with Waste Management. In return, Bestway has given the town a "home field" rate along with agreeing to provide residential recycling pick-up.

Belmont's Application Review Committee met Thursday and reviewed the plan. Town Planer Candace Daigle said she expects the Planning Board to act on the change of use request on Jan. 26.

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Laconia Firefighters spearhead effort to rebuild family home in New Hampton

NEW HAMPTON – Pickup trucks line one side of Kelly Pond Road yesterday and the sound of hammer pounding and saws whining punctured the quiet country air.

Like any other construction site, this one had a bright orange dumpster, stacks of drywall and other building materials and the constant drone of a generator.

What made this one different is that it is an all-volunteer effort led by Laconia Firefighter Steve Hanser to rebuild a home that was damaged by a fire that left 12 members of the Batchelder family homeless.

Hanser, who started his firefighting career with the New Hampton Fire Department as a call firefighter, said it was a suggestion he made that snowballed into a massive rebuilding effort by other Laconia Firefighters, some personal friends of his, and donations of good and services from local businesspeople throughout the Lakes Region.

The goal, said Hanser, is for the Batchelder family to be able to return to their home before Christmas Day.

Hanser said the family didn't have any insurance and he said he knew they needed help. So he told them that he didn't have any money either, but would help to put things back together for them.

He said the project "started to snowball" and by Thursday people were calling and helping with donations or services for the project. Yesterday the crew was hoping to finish the framing.

The elder Batchelders both have some health issues but provide a home for 10 of their family members, including seven children between the ages of 1 and 12. Right now the entire family is staying at a nearby hotel likely being paid for by the Red Cross.

New Hampton Town Administrator Barbara Lucas stopped by the site to thank Hanser and to tell him others in the area are gathering Christmas presents for the family. She said the selectmen agreed to waive the building permit fees for the family.

Among those dedicating their time, money or equipment to the Batchelders' cause are Dumpster Depot, Rowell Sewer and Drain which supplied a port-a-potty, Superior Insulations and Lowe's Home Improvement Stores.

Hanser said Alex Ray of the Common Man Restaurant and the 104 Diner in New Hampton is holding fundraisers for the family as well.

Anyone wishing to help should contact the Common Man Restaurants, the 104 Diner or the Laconia Fire Department.


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Heroin overdose nearly kills Laconia 19 year-old

LACONIA — Police are investigating the near fatal heroin overdose of a 19-year-old man on Winter Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire officials said the unnamed teen had a pulse rate of 4 beats per minute when firefighters were able to revive him with NARCAN, a drug is administered to counter the effects of heroin overdoses.

Officials said the individual came very close to dying.

Local police said there were a number of people in the area when they responded and they are investigating. The man's name is not being released.

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