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Lala Mooney, the keynote speaker at the Central W.Va. Republican Women's meeting Monday, discusses her experience of being held as a political prisoner in Cuba.

Lala Mooney shares her story of coming of age in Communist Cuba

BUCKHANNON – On Monday evening, Lala Mooney, of Charles Town, shared her personal and political story with members of the Central WV Republican Women’s Club.

Mooney told those gathered that although she freely shares her story, the underlying message is one that is sad.

“You hear so much about Cuba being so good and having good medical service, hearing that the people there are so happy,” she said. “But I want to tell you my very own story about Cuba.”

Mooney is the mother of Republican Congressman Alex Mooney.

Mooney said her story begins on April 17, 1961: the day of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

“I was sitting in the living room of my family home in Cuba that day and noticed through the windows that militia men had surrounded my home,” Mooney recounted. “They came through all of the doors and told us to go into the living room.

“Once we had all gathered, they searched our house. Then they told us we would all have to go to prison.”

So, everyone in her home over the age of 12 was ordered to leave and go to a prison. Her family was comprised of her mother and father and 14 siblings.

“Me, my two sisters and my dad were sent to prison that day,” she said, adding that they did not take her mother so she could stay and care for the siblings that were younger than 12 years old.

“This was the first day of the Bay of Pigs Invasion,” Mooney said. “Fidel Castro ordered prisoners to be gathered … and how many prisoners do you think he could take in just one day? He took 100,000 prisoners in one day. He didn’t have enough prisons to house them all, so he put them in theaters, museums – anywhere he could.”

She said most of her family ended up in political prison – her dad in La Cabana and the women were sent to a women’s prison, where she was detained for two months before moving to the United States.

Mooney said she had met Fidel Castro in person once.

“In person he was very charming and sweet. As soon as people left him, he would say to execute that one. He had no qualms in doing that,” Mooney said.

In the months she spent in political prison, she said one incident sticks out in her mind.

“On Mother’s Day, they tried to move a group of women … to another prison, one that had worse conditions than the prison they were at,” Mooney said, noting she wasn’t part of this group.

“The women refused to leave, and so they brought in firemen who were forcing the women into a van,” Mooney continued. “One of the women fell … and she died. Another woman was five or six months pregnant, and the firemen aimed the water at her stomach to try to kill the baby. The other women formed a circle around the pregnant woman, and the baby survived,” she said.

“This just shows you what Communism does when they want you to do something,” Mooney said.

When capitalized, Communism is defined as a totalitarian system of government in which one authoritarian political party is in charge of all state-owned property and methods of producing goods and resources, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

When lower-cased it can mean the elimination of the concept of private property in favor of a system in which goods are owned in common and available to all.

After spending two months in prison, Mooney was released and came to America. Here, she met and married her husband, Vincent J. Mooney, who was a U.S. Army captain that served one year in Vietnam.

Mooney said he loved his country and was proud of democracy.

The couple had four children – Margareta and Vincent Jr., who are college professors; Patrick, a businessman; and Alex, U.S. Congressman in West Virginia, 2nd District.

Mooney said she has returned to do mission work in Cuba; the first visit was in 1999, and she has traveled there to do mission work seven more times. She said she was inspired to return when the Pope asked that Cuba be opened to the world and the world be opened to Cuba.

“Cuba was a mess, and they welcomed the mission workers,” she said. “We went door to door knocking and inviting the people to come to the church at night. The first week there, I cried all the time. It was such a disaster.”

Mooney explained that Cubans receive a ration card for food.

“One scary thing is by having a ration card, they control the food you eat,” she said. “There is a limited amount of food they give you. You have to stand in a line to get that food. Milk is only given to children under the age of 7.”

She said the ration cards and small amounts of food available to Cubans “make her blood boil.”

“You assume a ration card gives you enough to eat, but it doesn’t,” Mooney said. “If they are asked if they have enough food, they lie because they are afraid to tell the truth.”

“It is interesting that the government can control you that way,” she said.

She said she’s working on publishing a book about Cuba and her family’s experiences there. Mooney believes by telling her story in detail and explaining the reality of the pain and suffering of the people of Cuba, she will help people realize that Communism does not work.

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