MI NIETA: ASI FUE COMO NOSOTROS SALIMOS DE CUBA
por Oscar Espinosa
Este es un escrito que le hice a mi nieta mas joven, que queria información sobre como salimos nosotros de Cuba, sobre cuyo tema ella tenia que hacer una composición para la universidad. Yo le explico brevemente como fué todo el proceso, y expongo en frases cortas nuestros sacrificios y objetivos de salvaguardar a nuestros descendientes.
In January first of 1959 Fidel Castro and his band of guerrillas seized the government in Cuba, with a lot of promises to do good things for the poor and the under privileged, doing rights on whatever was done wrong before, and at the same time swore respect for the 1940 constitution, the democracy, and all the human rights.
Soon it was evident all those promises were just big lies, and Castro main concern was to stay in power, no matter what it was necessary to do to keep it. To accomplish his goal he started the empire of terror, persecuting, jailing, and even killing, to all those in disagreement with his ruling.
Private properties began to be confiscated by the government. They began with properties from foreign corporations and rich persons, but after a few months all properties, national or foreign, rich or not, even small hot dog or hamburgers posts, were taken by the government. Private property, no matter how large it could be, is the sacred icon of democracy, liberty, and the free enterprise system. There was not any doubt that a communist regime was being imposed in our beloved country!!
The system did not give any political choices for the people, but to agree with the ruler, or be signalized as an enemy (member of the CIA, was their preferred accusation, that carry the death penalty; no matter if you never heard about those initials before, or believed to be abbreviation for company, compañia in Spanish). For those who did not agree the only alternatives were to leave the country, go to jail, or to the cemetery!!
We didn't like to live into that system, and we didn't like our descendants to endure the suffering of living in a system like that, so, we decided to leave the country, no matter all the sacrifices it meant for our ancestors and us. The goal was to save our next generations!!
We began to do the paper work for leaving the country, for all of us, in 1960. We went to see a lawyer, to help us in that task, and I will never forget what he told us before we left his office: "I pity you, for the Calvary road you will have to walk"!! How true he was!!! But there was not any other choice. Thanks God, (and we say that every day of our life), that we had the opportunity to come to this great country, and be received with open hearts from the most compassionate people in the world!!
We have everything ready around the middle of 1961. Between many others, there were two important and difficult obstacles in that moment: to get air tickets reservations (too many people were trying to leave the country at the same time), and to get a phony identification for me, from the police intelligentsia, that I was a mere employee in some low level work, because the government was already forbidding professional and technical people from leaving the country. Don't ask me how, but I got the ID!! (Always fearing that at the time of the departure they could discover the trick and be thrown on jail!).
To get the air tickets was very difficult, but by means of a friend, who had a friend working in one of the airlines, we obtained the reservations for the 7 of us. To secure the operation he got the seats for us in two consecutives week flights, in case some cancellation of a flight occurred, as happened quite often those days. One week before the date of the first flight, for which we were listed, we woke up with bad news: all flights leaving the country were stopped by the government, until new notice. The given reason was that that the foreign airline companies were extorting the Cuban people, and they could not allow that to happen. A big lie, as usual.
The real truth: they were preparing new rules, much more complicated and sophisticated, and more painful for the dissenters!!! Now The Urban Reform department, that was controlling all real state confiscated by the government, took part in the ruling for leaving the country. As soon as one applied to leave the country their people went to your home, to make an inventory of everything in the house, no matter how small or useless it may be. Two or three days before your flight, that can be any period of time since the initial inventory was made, (many months, or even years), they came to your house to check the inventory, and if something was missing, no matter what it is, you can not leave the country. Everything was elaborated to a tighter control of the escapade and, at the same time, to torture the dissenters as much as possible!!
The new rules made useless all we already have done, so we need to start all over again. In one hundred days we finished all paper work of our three older sons, and we applied for their departure under the Peter Pan Plan (sponsored by the Catholic Church). Their flight was scheduled for February 13 of 1962, for Billy (15), Steve (13) and Ron (12), and we decided to let them go, thinking we were going to be reunited in a week or two. How wrong we were!!!
That 13th of February of 1962 was one of the saddest days of our life, seeing our three children leaving by themselves, from the big terrace of the Havana airport, while the plane was taxing by the tarmac toward the departing runaway. I have never seen so many grown up people, crying loudly, as those several hundred parents and relatives, saying good-by to our children!!!
In 8-1/2 months we still did not have all paper work ready for the rest of us, when the crisis of October 22 (the missiles installed in Cuba) happened, and the Cuban government plunge the iron curtain, suspending all flights from Cuba.
Several hundred thousands of families were divided, like ours, with the children by themselves here, and the parents and other relatives in Cuba, or vice versa. President Lyndon B. Johnson got an agreement with the Cuban government, in 1963 or 64, I do not remember when, to start flights to reunite the Cuban families. That plan, sponsored and paid by the U. S. Government, was called as the Freedom Flights. There were a lot of requisites to comply. The three more important were: first degree of consanguinity, that the children were alone, and third, not in Florida. We complied with all that, so we must be in one of the first flights. Wrong again!!!
As soon as the agreement was active we applied, but from the very beginning the Cuban government let me know that I couldn't leave the country, because of my work as an Engineer in the most important industry of the country, sugar mills. They offered me to let the rest of my family to leave, as soon as possible, and let me reunite with them after the 10 million-tons crop of 1970.
Abuelita, Cristy, and Carlos, came over here on April 28 of 1966.
I came on September 10 of 1970, after a long and very painful separation from my wife and children. Now the pain is the separation from those we have to leave behind. I left all I had: my parents, my brother, my sister in law, my niece and nephews, and a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and all the in-laws from my wife side.
Last but not least, the very big pain to loose your homeland, your culture, your costumes, and all your ancestors. There are no words to express that.
God bless all our family!!