It was 55 years ago today that my dad, mom, and the three kids 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.
Nobody said a lot 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. Cuba was all that they knew. They were born there and never expected to leave their country to pursue a better life anywhere else.
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” (or “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 that 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 started in 1966 or what became known as the “freedom flights.” Thousands of Cuba came to the U.S. in those flights.
A week later, we flew to Jamaica where we waited for the U.S. government to grant us entry. We spent two months there and were supported by our two uncles in the U.S. who sent weekly money drafts. We lived in a small room and spent our day throwing around a baseball that my mom had put together for us from a rock and my father’s socks.
Eventually, we got our “papers” and arrived in the U.S. And then we found our way to Wisconsin thanks to the generosity of a church.
My father is now gone and my brother and sister have their own lives and families. I will speak with my mom who usually remembers something about that day.
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 that our boys understand that.