Marta here. I hope you're enjoying this series: Cuando Sali de Cuba, stories of courage and hope.
Every time I receive an email with "Cuando Sali de Cuba" in the subject line I get super excited. I seriously love that you are all so generous to share your lives with this blog. I know so many of these stories resonate with you because they speak of your own experiences. Thank you so very much.
Today, Mica tells the story of the bravery of her parents and how they left everything behind for a new and better life here in the U.S. I particularly love that she has included those beautiful old photos which depict a perfectly ordinary family caught in a terrible political predicament and having to make some truly difficult decisions.
I remember being very jealous of the mystical, magical world my parents, brother and sister came from. Hearing stories of the large homes, perfect weather, amazing foods and idyllic parties and gatherings.
Instead, I was witness to living in a cold, busy, noisy city where snow and slush made my parents miserable. You see, I was born in Brooklyn, NY to Cuban immigrant parents who bravely came to the United States with two small children and not a dime in their pockets. Their story was repeated to me day in and day out, time after time as a reminder of their sacrifices and all that they gave up so that we could all live a better life in freedom.
My father had business ties with the Icelandic government and through them he was able to secure a temporary visa and passage to the United States. Instead on continuing on to Iceland as his visa allowed, he stayed in Miami looking for a job and home for my mother and siblings as they waited in Cuba.
It was 1961 and jobs in Miami were hard to find. He had some leads that lead nowhere. Desperate and missing my mother he told her his visa was about to expire and he was thinking of going back home. She decidedly told him, "You can return if you wish but I am leaving for the U.S. as planned with my children. I refuse to let them grow up in communism."
So, thanks to my mother’s determination and clear thinking, my father decided to try his luck in the Big Apple. He found a job and an apartment just in time to accommodate the arrival of the family. They arrived, with no one to welcome them, help them or guide them. They left every single relative behind. How brave they were, how lucky I am to have had them do such amazing things.
Slowly, one by one, they brought all of their immediate relatives to the States. The list included parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. By my count in 7 years they received 27 people, with no extra money or space to house them. It didn’t matter because it was the right thing to do. They breathed a sigh of relief when the last one finally came over.
As I recount this story I realize it is not much different than others. Sadly this story has repeated itself now for over fifty years. Other stories are worse, for escape meant Castro’s prisons or death. But I don’t minimize the importance of what that generation did for all of us. Their stories are a living example of determination, desire for liberty and an unending faith in God.
I will never forget when my parents reached their 33rd anniversary in the U.S., so bittersweet as at that point they lived away from home longer than they had lived in it.
This August marks the 50th anniversary of their trip to my homeland and I am not jealous anymore but forever grateful for giving me the gift of living and being born in such a wonderful country.
Gracias Mami, Papi, Olgui and Armandito. I love you. Happy Anniversary.
Thank you, Mica, my friend, for sharing your family's beautiful story.
To those of you who are still thinking about it, please send me your own "coming to America" story. Send it to me via email to mdarby(at)cox(dot)net and put Cuando Sali de Cuba in the subject line. Please include photos.
Thank you all, again. I am honored and humbled to be able to post these stories of such beautiful ordinary courage.