It was 59 years ago today

Our family: My parents and the three of us before we left.

Don’t ask me to explain where all the years went, but they did. It was 59 years ago today, that my dad, mom and the three of us woke up in Cuba knowing that things would never be the same. My mom had talked to us the night before and told us to be strong and stick together as one family.

No one said much that morning. My parents had decided to leave after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the “communist radicalization” of Cuba. They did not want us to attend government schools where kids were taught communist ideas and history was rewritten to justify “la revolucion.”

My parents knew that this day would come, but it was still a bit hard for them to take.   

My parents were part of the large middle class that Cuba developed in the 20th century. They were betrayed by promises of “change” and elections that never came. Leaving Cuba and starting over somewhere else was never something they planned to do. Leaving behind the island that they loved so much was very painful, and we could see it in their faces.

We got to the airport knowing that we’d be harassed by Castro’s thugs. It was customary for these government workers to harass “los gusanos” (worms, as we were called). The idea was to pick a fight and then delay your departure.

We sat at the airport, fearing the personal searches. This is where the men and women were separated and “searched” to make sure you weren’t taking jewelry or anything of value beyond clothes.  My parents had left their wedding rings with my aunt, so they wore plain rings, just in case some government thug decided to take it.

The plane finally took off, and we landed in Mexico City a few hours later. We went to Mexico because there were no flights to Miami after the Missile Crisis. The Miami flights were restarted in 1966 or what became known as the “freedom flights.” Thousands of Cubans came to the US on those flights.  

A week later, we flew to Jamaica, where we waited for the US government to grant us entry. We spent 2 months there and were supported by our two uncles in the US who sent weekly money drafts. We lived in a small room and spent our day throwing around a baseball my mom had put together for us.

Eventually, we got our “papers” and arrived in the US.  And then we found our way to Wisconsin thanks to the generosity of a church.  

My parents are now gone, but I call my brother and sister to remember this or that.  It just does not seem possible that it happened so long ago. We definitely learned about liberty and how a powerful and ruthless central government can crush the individual.   

I always make sure our boys understand that.

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2 thoughts on “It was 59 years ago today”

  1. We left April of 62. Directly to Miami. I count my blessings every day. I was 4 my brother was 7. We were lucky. For Carlos Eire, what’s your name? First grade 1964, “Richard”.
    Oh your from Cuba? Have been back? Hell no!

  2. Freedom Flights (Los vuelos de la libertad) transported Cubans to Miami twice daily, five times per week from 1965 to 1973. It was a program that started under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) and ended during the presidency of Richard Nixon (1969-1974). The program changed the racial makeup of Miami and fueled the growth of the Cuban-American enclave there.

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