Happy Father’s Day, Papi

Greeting my dad outside our home in Miami’s Little Havana when he arrived home from work.

On this Father’s Day, I remember my dad, who passed away in 2005. I also remember how hard he worked and how much he sacrificed so my siblings and I could grow up in freedom instead of communist tyranny in Cuba. He and my mother left behind their home, their families, their careers, their entire lives, and came to the United States so that their children would not become slaves of a Marxist state.

The Castro dictatorship would not allow my parents and two siblings to leave Cuba together, so my father left first. He arrived in Miami alone with nothing, but immediately found work and with the help of some Jamaican Good Samaritans he had met, a year later he was able to bring my mother and my brother and sister to the U.S. A few years later, my mother gave birth to me at Mercy Hospital in Miami. The first one in the extended family born in the U.S., or as my family would call me, El Americanito.

In Cuba, my family was far from wealthy. At best, they were part of the middle class. That in itself was quite a feat considering both of my parents were born dirt poor during the depression era in the rural area of Pinar del Rio. Through their own hard work and determination, they rose out of poverty and built a life for themselves and their children with a decent home and food on the table. That’s all my father ever wanted, for his children to never have to suffer the hunger and poverty he suffered as a child.

My father worked throughout his 40+ years in the U.S. Much of it by necessity, but in the latter part of his life, by desire. He could never stand still, he always had to be working on something. In his retirement, when he had the luxury of sitting back and relaxing during his golden years, he chose to use that time to build things. This work ethic defined my father, a man who would not allow his sons to stand around with their hands in their pockets because it made them look like they have nothing to do.

Throughout our lives, he never let us forget how fortunate we were to have been raised in freedom and how we owe everything to America, the great country that gave us refuge and liberty. When I would ask him if he ever wanted to visit Cuba again to once again see where he was born and raised, he would always respond with a resounding NO! “Yo no deje nada en Cuba que necesito ver” (I didn’t leave anything behind in Cuba that I need to see).

My father has been gone now for nearly 20 years, but his legacy continues in his children. He taught us that the most important thing in life is family, and that we should be willing to sacrifice everything in order to protect them.

Thank you dad for protecting us, for giving up everything for us, for working so hard and so long to ensure we would have all the things you lacked growing up. And above all, thank you for ensuring we would live and be able to raise our own families in freedom.

Gracias, Papi. Feliz dia de los padres.

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