Cuando Sali de Cuba - Margaret's Story

Marta here. Welcome to my ongoing celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month - Cuban Style with a series of stories about Cuban American families and how they ended up here in the U.S.

Cuando Sali de Cuba, stories of courage and hope.

Today's story comes from Margaret. She tells about the agonizing wait to leave Cuba and how her family was harrassed by Castro's goons after they decided to leave.


My family consisted of my mom, my dad, my brother and I.  We were a happy family. My dad worked for US Company as a mechanic-electrician.  He and my mom were married for 17 years and had built a modest home in El Cotorro,Reparto Las Brisas.  He was born in Guanavacoa  and my mom in Regla.

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My dad knew what was coming when the Castro Regime took over, so when the Bay of Pigs invasion was unsuccessful, he and my mom started paperwork to leave. My uncle in New York was our sponsor and it took one year from the time the paperwork was started to the day we received the departure date.

As all Cubans know, you leave everything because the government says it’s theirs. Everything in the house is inventoried  when they find out you are leaving and then 3 days before your actual departure day, you are put out of your home, inventory taken again to make sure you haven’t sold or given away any of YOUR stuff.

If anything was missing, you didn't leave. My family’s day of departure was September 26, 1962.

Our uncle took us to the Havana Airport, we went into the “fishbowl” where you were called names and jeered at by the loyal Castro-lovers who stood on the other side of the glass room.

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Margaret with her mother and brother.

We were lucky; we were not searched in the manner in which many were. However our luck ran out when going up the stairs to the plane. My dad’s name was called and he was not allowed to board with us.

We took off without him and knew nothing of him for over 24 hours.

Once he joined us in Miami almost two days later, he said he had not been tortured but I don’t really believe it now. My dad got sick one week after we arrived in New York and died on November 15th, 1962 less than two months after coming from Cuba.

 Anyone that says you can’t die of a broke heart is wrong. Leaving everything you worked so hard to have to a government just because you disagree and want to leave can break your heart.

My dad never got to experience the freedom he died to give us and my brother and I are forever grateful to him and my mom for their sacrifice to get us out of that hellhole!  How different our lives would have been if we had stayed.

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Margaret's mother and stepfather.

Our story is not that different from many Cubans, but it is ours. We were lucky to be here and I will forever be grateful to the United States of America for opening their arms to us.

~ Margaret Rabelo-Carlson