Cuban American NASCAR driver credits Cuban exile family for American dream
With family roots in Cuba, Almirola now living the American dream
'My story is just one of millions'
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola knows that his good fortune can be traced to good family, good decisions and a great country.
“My story is just one of millions,” says the Richard Petty Motorsports driver, whose roots resonate with a patriotic bond to the third annual "NASCAR: An American Salute" program, a seven-week campaign to rally teams, tracks, fans and partners to collectively recognize and honor active and retired service men and women.
“I’m thankful for the opportunities we have on a day-to-day basis and for the men and women who put their life on the line to make sure we, as Americans, get to wake up and be safe each day,” he said.
Almirola’s patriotism extends far beyond the U.S. Air Force logo on the blue hood of his iconic No. 43 Ford and runs deeper than the commitment his sponsor Eckrich Meats has made in aiding military families.
It extends all the way back to 1966, when his paternal grandparents emigrated from Cuba, sacrificing all their possessions so their family might have the opportunity to live the American dream.
When Ralph Almirola Sr. and wife Eneida fled Havana with only the clothes on their backs and their two children, Almirola’s father, Ralph Jr., was four years old and his uncle, Roberto, was just two.
“It was at a time when Fidel Castro was offering freedom flights to Miami,” Aric Almirola says. “But if you wanted to go, you had to give all your personal belongings to the government.”
The Almirolas were not dirt-poor so the decision was not an easy one.
“My grandparents were middle class,” Aric says. “They worked hard for everything they acquired in Cuba. They had a car and a farm-style house. My grandfather always worked and so did my grandmother, who sewed dresses and other items. They made a decent living. But they didn’t like what they saw of the way the country was going. When it was time to make a decision, they made it for their family and themselves.
“When they arrived here, they felt instant patriotism. This was the country that accepted them and welcomed them and gave them an opportunity. All they were asking for was that opportunity to create a better life for their family than what they had in Cuba.”
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