For Cuban exiles who will not accept anything less than freedom and the liberation of Cuba, sometimes it is all too easy to become discouraged with the way some fellow Cuban exiles act and speak. But once in a while, a story comes along that reminds us of the bond that holds us together. The same bond that has inspired us to continue our fight and struggle for freedom for more than five decades.
Cuban exiles share a bond and inspirational tale of overcoming adversity
Graduates at St. Thomas University may have expected just the average commencement speech from keynote speaker Miguel “Mike” Fernandez at Saturday’s ceremony.
Instead, they got inspiration as they witnessed the relationship between two men who fought adversity and circumstance to make a better life for themselves.
Fernandez, a leader in healthcare service companies who was presented with an honorary degree, spoke of failure and adversity as learning experiences — and shared many of his own.
“Failure and adversity are necessary steps in the road of success,” he said.
Then he introduced Jorge Alvart, a former Cuban political prisoner, who Fernandez recently befriended.
“The real lesson to be learned is this man came on a raft five years ago with nothing but the desire to work, but he didn’t take the easy way out,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez shared Alvart’s story, which began in Cuba, where his arms were amputated while in prison. He never gave up in achieving his dream of coming to America, where he started a business and brought over his wife and two children.
“He is the role model for anyone who thinks he’s had a bad day,” said Fernandez, 60.
Alvart was imprisoned in Cuba for the first time at the age of 14, after he was caught in anti-government acts such as burning down sugar cane fields. He was released two years later but imprisoned again within six months when he was caught trying to illegally flee the island on a raft.
While in prison, he says he was tortured several times.
In a planned attempt to escape, Alvart injected gasoline into his fingers so that he would be taken to the clinic. The plan backfired when he was denied medical attention and gangrene set in on both arms, which were then amputated.
He was released from prison after serving four years but was jailed again after trying to take his story to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. He spent two more years in jail before being released.
However, that did not stop his dream of coming to the United States.
After his third release from jail, Alvart tried five other unsuccessful attempts to flee.
He succeeded on his seventh attempt five years ago. By then, he had a wife and two children, who joined him in Miami three years ago.
While in prison, his dream to come to the United States inspired him to tattoo an American flag on his back, and on his chest these Spanish words: “ A noventa millas soy feliz” (I’m happy 90 miles away).
Read the entire story HERE.