Cuban exile, Pedro Pan kid: from orphanage to Denver mayor’s office

Guillermo Vidal
Guillermo Vidal

Never mind all the crap down there in Castrogonia, or the way that the news media of the so-called Free World gloss over its infinite crimes against humanity.

Nothing good ever happens down there.   For good news involving Cubans, you have to go to the exile diaspora.

So, forget the island for a minute or two, and take a look at this remarkable success story involving a Cuban exile.

Guillermo “Bill” Vidal, the current mayor of Denver, was one of 14,000 Cuban kids sent to the U.S.A. by their parents.  He and his two brothers ended up in a hellish orphanage in Pueblo, Colorado.  Four years later, his parents were finally allowed to leave Cuba.  But the family reunion was far from idyllic, as was the case with many of the Pedro Pan kids.   Parents and kids were often too scarred to resume anything resembling a “normal” life.

Guillermo Vidal not only survived these horrors, but transcended them, and he has written a beautiful memoir, Boxing for Cuba, which did not get the attention it deserves.  Go HERE to buy it.


Never mind the stupid cover.  Authors have no control over such matters, and American and European publishers think that every book about Cuba needs to feature an antique car on the cover, even if it deals with a Cuban’s life in exile.  This is how they see us, how they reduce us to kitsch they can gawk at.  

This weekend Mayor Vidal’s  life story was featured by a Denver television station, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.  But the producers of this news segment seemed so overwhelmed by the fact that a lowly  “Hispanic” could end up as mayor of Denver that they didn’t even bother to mention his beautiful book.

The news piece is far from stellar, but it is partially redeemed by its inclusion of a video interview with Mayor Vidal.

From, in Colorado:

Guillermo Vicente Vidal: From fleeing Castro’s Cuba to Denver mayor

DENVER – Guillermo Vicente Vidal, or Bill, was the youngest of three brothers born in the city of Camaguey in Cuba. His father was a pharmacist and his mother was a stay at home mom. They lived a comfortable lifestyle as a middle class family with nannies, maids, a cook, and even a gardener. But after 1959, everything would change as Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

“Within that year, all that celebration started spiraling into chaos. Where all of a sudden properties were confiscated. Your neighbors started turning you in for being a counter-revolutionary and it was mayhem,” recalls Vidal. “The schools were taken over by the militia, and the Catholic church was thrown out of the island.”

Behind closed doors, the children began to hear the soft murmurs of their parents talking about sending them off of the island. In 1961, through Operation Peter Pan, Vidal’s parents sent the boys to the United States on Pan American flights. They weren’t the only ones trying to flee from Castro’s Cuba.

Continue reading HERE 

14 thoughts on “Cuban exile, Pedro Pan kid: from orphanage to Denver mayor’s office”

  1. Authors can have control of the cover of their books if they follow the process directly like I did in both my books. I even chose what photos to put on the cover of “The Moncada Attack” and had them change the initial color scheme.
    In “Boxing for Cuba” I would have told them to change the subtitle from “An Immigrant’s Story” to “An Exile’s Story.”
    In “Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy” the term “Immigrant Boy” would have taken the book out of context.
    I just bought my copy of “Boxing for Cuba.”

  2. “When I went back to Cuba, what I realized was the senselessness and the cruelty of the embargo and the silliness that Cuba is the only country that Americans can’t go to,” Vidal said. “I think if we could lift the travel ban, I think you would see new ideas being injected into the Cuban people. And all of a sudden they won’t just want property rights….”They will be clamoring for more capitalistic opportunity for them.”
    (Bill Vidal, April 2012)

    “The one thing I learned when I went back is that the Cuban people are really suffering as a result of the embargo,” said Vidal. “The only people it was empowering was Castro, because he gets to keep a lot of people and ideas out.”
    (Bill Vidal, April 2009)

  3. Hum-Boy-Dah, Vidal speaks like a minion Democrat. He should set the example of “clamoring for more capitalistic opportunity” to North Korea and Iran, especially now. True, Vidal went through the anguish and suffering that most of us child refugees experienced, but being isolated from el exilio de la saguesera in distant Colorado had its Americanization effect on him.

  4. Either Vidal believes official Cuba “expertise,” which means I can’t respect his judgment or understanding, or he’s being PC to avoid looking too conservative or getting lumped with “those people” (the horror!), which means I can’t respect him at all. Not a happy choice, certainly not an incentive for me to buy the book–and neither is his political affiliation, which is unseemly at best for a Cuban. No doubt his environment out west had much to do with that, but such cluelessness, even if it’s no worse than that, is still distasteful and off-putting. I realize, however, that I may not be part of the book’s target audience anyhow. And btw, why is his middle name misspelled on that book cover? The Spanish form of Vincent is Vicente, not “Vincente,” and the name is spelled correctly on the cover that shows up in Amazon, which uses a different photo (though still the tiresomely stereotypical “classic car” bit). Surely he had control over how his name was written. Also, petty though it may be, his hair coloring looks rather odd (as in dye job), which again becomes a judgment issue. I know; I have an unforgiving eye–it’s congenital.

  5. Holy Crap…. Santa Mierda… what a can of worms. And this is more than a can (lata) it seems to be a barrel (laton). Except you can’t say laton de gusanos when it comes to anything dealing with Cuba, given the meaning of “gusano”… so this is a Laton de Mierda or Laton de Mojones…

    Sorry about this, readers …. The memoir I read is focused on his experiences at the orphanage and on his mother’s mental illness (caused by the Revolution), not on this *&^%$#@! betrayal of his own people.

    The professor did not do his research. I need to spend my time in the sixteenth century.

  6. … and… almost forgot….
    The fact that Vidal is out in Colorado has nothing to do with his betrayal of Cuban principles. One does not need to remain in Miami in order to discern the difference between right and wrong. I’ve lived up north for fifty years. I know many exiles who have not lost their souls up here. Location is not the issue. The issue in this case seems to be party affiliation as well as social contacts.
    I get emails from turncoat liberal Cubans who say, “come on, you’re embarrassing us, stop being such a troglodyte.” Many of these emails come from Miami.

  7. Carlos, YOU are embarrassing people? In Miami? Do they have names like Yarisleydys and Yusmany? Wait, those people wouldn’t be bothering with you or this blog. Too busy planning their next trip to Cuba or hustling to pay for remittances. It must be different avatars of Saladrigas, or comparable creatures–heaven knows there’s enough of them. Maybe it’s some hack Cubanoid who works for the Miami Herald who’s been assigned to harass you; there’s actually some porcine cretin over there who’s apparently embarrassed by José Martí. Alas, there’s no shortage of suspects. As for the location issue, I was trying to be charitable (and not without effort), but I think location can play a role when the person is weak to begin with. Maybe I should start sending e-mails to Cubans who embarrass and disgust ME, but I’m afraid that’d be a full-time job. Sheesh.

  8. asombra, the world needs more asombras who can try to embarrass people who disgust us. But the trouble is those who need to be embarrassed are unembarrassable.

    Believe me. I try to tell my liberal friends they have their heads up their derrieres (French for the real word I used) and they are not insultable. No matter how I try they can not be insulted because they are so sure they are right, more moral and care more than anyone else, that nothing I say can penetrate.

    And btw, I love this exchange and the way Professor Eire expresses his realization of his error.

  9. Yes, Honey, that’s a problem. I call them the Coco crowd: people who not only think their shit don’t stink, but actually believe it smells like Chanel No. 5.

  10. I question any Cuban who comes to USA to be Democrat but I surely have no respect for any Cuban, much less an “exile”, who expresses such apologetic and propagandistic stupidity regarding a bloody and unpardonable 53 year old Stalinist tyranny that’s only second in oppression to that of North Korea. This is the very kind of myopic frivolity and romantic imbecility that gave Cuba the communist cancer it still endures today. This man is no one to be writing about Cuba nor about the realities of communism (much less when many who argue the contrary inside Castrolandia are in a gulag), he is either a complete idiot or a paid servant.

    That said, I couldn’t care less where he resides, what language he speaks, nor what surrounds him, his own history should prompt him to inquire, analyze, and conclude about Castro’s regime in a more profound manner even if he lived passed El Quinto Coño in Casa del Carajo.

    He does not know Cuba is a staunch Stalinist state with no market economy and no civil society? Furthermore, Castro’s Cuba, a vestige of the USSR, hasn’t been the only country that has seen such level of oppression. Is he also going to blame the fact that North Korea is not South Korea, on USA for not doing business with its respective cult leader.

    Since the fall of the USSR Castro has done business with the entire world only to finance his aberrational tyranny as a post-soviet profit and while changing NOTHING of significance but his bank account. Vidal here also seems to ignore the role USA has taken in our disgrace and how much they truly care beyond a microphone war, specially know. Imbecile…

  11. Carlos, to be an exile, you have to feel that searing pain in your heart every day, in lesser or greater proportions, no matter where you live. Its the ball and chain fastened to your ankle. At least once a day you have to see a memento in your home our office that serves as a direct link to your exile. It can be the cafecito maker in the office or the arroz con pollo my cubanized wife made from an Internet recipe. Exile means searching for Cuba daily on the Internet and being outraged at the injustices on the island and general insensitivity toward our plight. I haven’t lived in la sagüesera since 1976, but make annual pilgrimages there and I am saddened by its dissolution and expanding cemeteries. My home and office overflow with cubanidad items. I have our fourth grade class De La Salle 1960 yearbook on the shelf above my computer. Being an exile is my inspiration to write, just like it is for you. Being an exile means not dishonoring the sacrifices our parents made for our freedom by spending a week in Varadero. Vidal severed the exile cord in Colorado, just like there are Cubans in Miami that have also done so, but they are immigrants, not exiles. that is the difference that separates us.

  12. His name is Vidal.
    I wonder if he’s related to that intolerable jerk Gore Vidal.
    Look at THAT name. His first name became the last name of another jerk.

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