July 2,1964: We call it 'our freedom day'

Don't ask me to explain where 50 years went but they did.

It was 50 years ago today, that my dad, mom and the 3 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.

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.   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" (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 US in 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 that 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.  

I will spend today with my parents, brother and sister.  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.

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.

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