Another amazing Cuban story among the five decades of countless similar stories that tell of the wonders of liberty and freedom after suffering under the yoke of communist tyranny.
From Cuba to cap and gown, political refugees graduate in St. Louis
The sisters rummaged through the rack with a quick uncertainty, looking for the right dress but not knowing exactly what that might be.
Casual or formal. Sundress or sequins. Crepe or cotton.
Or maybe pants?
Jennifer and Jessica Armas Gomez had each saved $200 for this moment — a trip to Plato’s Closet, a resale shop in Fairview Heights, trying to figure out what Americans wear at commencement.
In just a few days, they’d graduate from Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis. What to wear under the gown was a monumental decision.
It was a nice problem to have.
“I never thought I’d be able to graduate from high school,” said Jennifer, who turns 21 in September. “I thought it was going to be impossible.”
In Cuba, this certainly would have been the case.
Their life there was not easy, despite coming from a middle- to upper-class home. They grew up in a white cinder block farmhouse their father had built, surrounded by palm trees and vegetable fields outside of Havana. Their family found profit by running side businesses, such as restaurants and renting out rooms.
The hardships began with a single afternoon. Jennifer tells the story. It was 13 years ago, the day 150 Cuban police surrounded the house and took their parents to jail. She was 7 years old, and Jessica was 5. Both were in school as the house was ransacked.
Over the years, police had pressured her father to become a snitch — someone who would report on the activities of his neighbors. He refused, he said. Just as he refused time and again to profess being a Communist. His growing resentment of the Cuban government led him to become president of an organization that fought for human rights in that country.
Of the two sisters, Jennifer is the more talkative one. The caregiver. She cared for her great-grandmother the two years the government didn’t allow her in school. It taught her a lot about how to take care of someone. She now wants to become a nurse.
She and Jessica both do.
It’s an occupation they wouldn’t have been able to pursue in Cuba, or else they’d probably never have been allowed to leave. Members of the educated class are often forced to stay, they say.
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H/T Regina A.