Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hello USA: Was it really 47 years ago?

It turned out to be one of our last pictures in Cuba.  My cousin Carlos to the left, cousin Raul in the center and I'm standing to the right.  Our little sister Lidia sitting down, my brother Joaquin in the middle and the very gorgeous little cousin Maria de los Angeles next to him.

The second picture is my parents in the late 1950s, or shortly before Castro and the Cuban communist nightmare.   I think that they were out to dinner and celebrating the Christmas holiday with friends and relatives.

I can guarantee you that leaving Cuba and starting a new life in the US was the last thought in their mind.  Who could have predicted what happened to Cuba back then?  Who could have foreseen it? 

My dad was a bank manager and the company moved him around a lot.  We spent a lot of young days in wonderful towns like Sagua La Grande, Ciego de Avila, Jatibonico and later Havana. 

My mom was a homemaker.  We had a wonderful childhood because of her sense of humor, wonderful cooking and no one organized a kid's birthday party better than our mom!

On July 2, 1964, we did leave Cuba.  It took us about 3 years to get permission to leave!

It was the beginning of of a family odyssey that took us to Mexico for a week, Jamaica for two months and finally the US.

We flew to Mexico because there was a weekly flight to Mexico City.  It was one of two options to leave Cuba, i.e. the other one was Madrid.

From Mexico, we flew to Jamaica to wait our turn for US residency.  (It took us two months to get that residency)

On September 4th, we finally got to present our US papers at the Kingston airport, took a flight to Miami, celebrated Joaquin's birthday on-board and cheered when the 707 hit the Miami runway.  It was the taste of freedom that we had been yearning for the last few years in Cuba.

Above all, we thank our parents for leaving Cuba and giving us a chance to grow up in freedom.  They are the heroes of our family story that summer!

Once in a while, I think of how that "change" in Cuba changed our lives.  I remember all of those moments and thank God that our parents left the country.  I would have had a very different life if I had stayed in Cuba!

Overall, it was a summer that we will never forget.  We were not tourists.  Instead, we were political refugees without a lot money and just a dream to go to the US.  We spent  much of that summer waiting for our legal entry to the US!

Yes, our American experience started 47 years ago today. 

My brother, sister and I grew up in the US.  We met our spouses and had our children here.  We still recall some of those "growing up" moments in Cuba and share them when we get together.  We recall those days of the summer of '64 and that one room place in Kingston that was our home for almost two months!

My parents lived the "refugee" experience, got on their feet and had their very special American dream.  They are now enjoying  retirement in good health and keeping up with 9 grandchildren.

Sunday night Update:

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