By Bryan V.
Grade 6, Florida
Country of Origin: Cuba

For my oral history report, I decided to interview my grandmother. My grandmother emigrated from Cuba to the United States almost forty years ago. Like many other Cubans, my grandmother left because of political issues in her native country.

In the late 1950’s and during the 1960’s after the Cuban revolution, Cuba had become a Communist country. Many Upper class and professional Cubans were leaving the island to other countries. They also began to send their children to the United States because they were afraid of “losing them to communism.” After several failed attacks on Cuba, the United States began an embargo that forced Cubans to scramble for food and other necessary items. An embargo is a rule by a government that does not allow sale or trade of goods with another country.

Maria Esther D.
When and where were you born?
I was born in Havana Cuba on October 22, 1946.
Where is Havana Cuba located?
Havana is the capitol of Cuba. Cuba is a small country in the Caribbean about 90 miles south of Key West Florida.
Why did you leave this country?
I left Cuba because it had become a communist country. There was no respect for human rights.
How old were you when Cuba became a communist country and how did it affect you directly?
I was thirteen years old. I was in 8th grade. There was a lot of civil unrest. My parents withdrew me from school because they were afraid.
When did you leave Cuba and how old were you then?
I left Cuba on September 17, 1969. I was 22 years old.
Who came with you when you emigrated?
I came with my husband and one year old son.
How did you get here?
I came on a flight from Havana to Miami.
What were the conditions in Cuba when you left?
There was a lot of repression. There was no freedom of speech. If you spoke against the government, you were jailed and sometimes even tortured. The government controlled everything. They rationed food and other needed things. You were only allowed to purchase certain amounts of items. For example, each person was given 1.5 pounds of meat per week. Pork was only allowed during the Christmas holidays. If you were caught with pork in your house, you were arrested. You could only have 1 bar of soap per person a month and 1 bar of soap for laundry a month. There was no deodorant. I would use baking soda and talcum powder to make my own deodorant. You were allowed to purchase only one pair of shoes per year. I was entitled to one chicken a month because I had a child.

When did you decide you wanted to leave Cuba?
I knew that I couldn’t live such a controlled life. But when my husband was jailed for no reason, I knew we could not stay.
Why did you choose the United States?
We wanted to leave. We didn’t care to where. We applied to go to Spain. I had a cousin in the United States that claimed us at immigration and did paperwork to bring us to the United States. We came here because our visas to the United States came quicker.
How did you prepare for your trip?
There was not a lot of preparation. Basically I packed some clothes and photos in a small suitcase. When the government would find out that you were leaving, they would send soldiers to your house to take an inventory of everything that you owned. You were not allowed to sell anything before you left the country. If your neighbors were part of the communist party, they would scream obscenities at you and even spit on you when they found out you would be leaving the country. At the airport, I was taken to a bathroom and made to undress. They wanted to make sure I was not taking any money or jewelry out of the country. They would rummage through all your things, and whatever they felt like throwing away they would. I had a statue of Our Lady of Charity and it was thrown in a trash can.
What happened when you arrived in Miami?
We were taken to the Freedom Tower. We were given some coats and plane tickets to New York because we had family there.
What changes in lifestyle did you make when you came here?

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