What ever happened to my mother is one of the top five questions I get about Boxing for Cuba. This probably has to do with the fact that I deal with my father’s death and don’t really mention my parents very much after this event. For this reason, I thought I would write a few lines to update those who are interested in this topic.

Mami will be ninety years old this coming June. Under most normal circumstances, a major birthday like this would trigger a family celebration, but not for my mother. She would not understand it and may even be frightened by one. As things stand, the long battle we all must wage with our aging bodies has taken its toll on Martha.  No longer is she the beautiful woman she once took such great pride in illustrating, as her body and looks have been ravaged by Father Time. She is now wheelchair bound, must wear adult diapers and requires the 24 hour a day care she receives from the facility she is in.

Most notably, an advanced case of dementia has almost devoured all of her mind. Her complete surrender to this disease is clearly inevitable, but it is here that I take some solace in my mother’s condition. On the one hand, she will not find the peace and joy my father did when he met someone to love and who returned that love until the day he died. But on the other hand, Mami’s peace perhaps comes in the best way that it could for her, the loss of her memory. No longer is she tormented by the ghosts of her childhood, especially the terrible illness that so cruelly seized her brother, Nene, and whose disability brought on a malaise that severely handicapped her parents ability to love and nurture her. Additionally, although she no longer speaks English, she does not remember the suffering that was brought on to her and our family by Castro and his bearded jackals. More surprising is the fact that she no longer gives in to her vanity, as no longer present in her is the agonizing worry she always had  about losing her looks.

Incredibly, she does not even remember my father or having been married. Perhaps the best way God could bring peace to her on this subject was to obliterate the memories of that horrible marriage altogether. I do find it ironic, however. To think of all those years my parents wasted waging war against one another, gone without the sign of any struggle.

These days, seldom does she remember who I am when I visit, but it gives me some joy to see her, although a bittersweet one at best. For now, I see her happy, often smiling at anyone who will pay attention to her. She is no longer tortured by her bad dreams, paranoia and the hidden belief that she is not worthy of love. Perhaps, God does help us find our peace before we leave this world. Mami seems to have found hers. I am glad.

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I am happy to announce that Boxing for Cuba is finally out in Spanish. This has been a labor of love and I am thrilled to have it done. Many thanks go to my wife Gaby and to Fulcrum Press for making the investment. This is their first publication in another language. Here is the Amazon link.

http://www.amazon.com/Boxeando-por-Cuba-Historia-Immigrante/dp/1555919162

Reporter Ginger Delgado from Channel Fox 31 did a good job succinctly summarizing my story in this profile.  Boxing for Cuba is referenced in the story.

http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-exclusive-denvers-next-mayor-honored-ready-to-take-reins-20110106,0,1145940.story

Next week, on January 11, 2011 (to be followed by a swearing in ceremony on Jan 12), I will be sworn in as Denver’s new mayor. I am deeply honored to be given this opportunity and sincerely grateful to those who have and will help me along the way.  Yet, during my quiet moments, I realize that this upcoming event has shaken the very foundation of my emotions like a Chilean earthquake. Forty-nine years ago, I could have never imagined that the road from Camaguey, Cuba to Sacred Heart Home in Pueblo, Colorado would lead me to the mayor’s office. Even during the years that I spent writing about my immigration story in my book, Boxing for Cuba, the thought that something like this would happen never crossed my mind.  Yet, I am deeply moved, sometimes even weepy, by the significance of this event.  Perhaps I am no different than the other 14,000 Cuban children who came unaccompanied to this country under Operation Pedro Pan.  Perhaps, like me, every Pedro Pan kid reflects on the long road they have traveled every time a momentous occasion happens in their lives. In any event, my reflections turn to three main topics. First, in spite of our difficulties as a family once we were reunited, I know that the sacrifice my parents made to give my brothers and I a better life will probably be the greatest single act of love I will ever experience. They gave up everything for us, that is sure. Considering the situation they had to face, I am grateful and proud of them. Second, the fact that a simple immigrant can one day become a mayor, a governor or a CEO of a major company is a common occurrence in the United States and it is a testament to this country’s greatness. Stories like this are very rare in other countries around the world. Third, and perhaps most important, my story is proof that immigrants do contribute to the success of our country. We were lucky that a generous nation opened her doors and her arms to Cuban children when we arrived, but others today are not so lucky.  I sincerely hope that, in this coming year, the majority of us will work towards a humane and equitable solution that will allow immigrants a chance at a better life. I thank God that on September 19th of 1961, Americans found it in their hearts a way to give my brothers and I a chance.

Just got back from Washington D.C after a day of lobbying the Colorado congressional delegation.  Over 60 delegates from 15 states went to Congress to push for the passage of HB 874 in the House, which has 180 co-sponsors and SB 424 in the Senate that has over 30 co-sponsors.  This may be the year that the U.S. begins to change the outdated and wornout 50 year policies from the cold war towards Cuba.  The legislation does not remove the cruel embargo, but it does take a solid step in making it easier for our best ambassadors—the American people—to intermingle with our Cuban neighbors.  I can’t think of a better way to begin to affect change in Cuba than by removing the travel ban and expose the Cubans to our ideas, our values and our beliefs.

I was wonderfully surprised last week when I received the following personal note from former President Bill Clinton regarding his impressions after having read  Boxing for Cuba.  A mutual friend had given him an autographed copy this past Christmas.  I blacked out some of the perosnal data for identity protection.

clinton-letter-2woa1

Today marks the one year anniversary since my publisher, Ghost Road Press, relased my book.  It was done in grand style in cooperation with the Tattered Cover in Lower Downtown Denver who hosted my first reading.  The Tattered Cover has carried the book all year, for which I am deeply grateful to them.  I wanted to mark this anniverasy with this blog entry because the release of the book has brought so many good things to my life.  First of all, a week does not go by that I don’t hear from someone who has read the book.  I am always thrilled—alhough somewhat surprised—that the sharing of my story has had such a profound meaning in someone’s life.   This fact alone has made the whole writing esperience worth the sacrifice.  But there has been more.  My bothers and I have grown closer as a result and have made a more profound effort to be part of one another’s life.  Although i have never doubted my love and respect for them nor theirs for me, it is wonderful to have them as a more integral part of my life.  Most importantly, my daughter Molly, who had been estranged from me for several years, has rediscovered the importance of her relationship with her father, and I am grateful.  She has brought to me a wonderful son in law in her husband and a beautiful grandson.  Yesterday for Thanksgiving we were able to express to one another how thankful we were in having each other back in our lives.