“We looked at each other like… Oh my God! What is this place? This is paradise!”
I had just turned five years old, and I guess the revolution had just happened. Castro had come into Cuba and my mother decided she was not staying. She told my father, “We need to leave for the United States!” but my dad didn’t want to leave. So my mom said, “Ok, you stay, and I’ll leave with the kids.” At this point, my dad rethought it.
We arrived in the United States on Halloween…October 31st, 1960. My brothers and I arrived at a house here in Miami where my cousins were already staying. My cousins, who had come two weeks earlier from Cuba, said “you’re not going to believe this…you knock on people’s doors, and they give you CANDY!” They had all these bags and buckets of candy which they dumped on the floor in front of us. We looked at each other like “Oh my God, what is this place?! This is paradise!”
I was born and raised here in Miami. My great-grandparents on my father’s side came from Ireland. My great-grandmother on my mother’s side came from England, but went through Alsace-Lorraine and Canada in the 1800’s before coming to the U.S., first to Pennsylvania and then to Ohio. My grandmother was actually sold as an indentured servant at the age of nine in Canada before she made it here. When her mom died, her dad kept her seven year old sister and sold my grandmother to a family. When she was 19 my grandmother went to teachers college and by the time she was 20, they let her go. She came to the United States after and met my grandfather here, where they started a family.