Boxing for Cuba in Miami

January 14, 2008

Incredibly good fortune allowed me to escape the Denver Christmas snow and spend my days in balmy Florida to do a book reading at the Books and Books store in Coral Gables.  However, this experience was not just a pleasant vacation in the sun – I certainly had plenty of misgivings about performing a reading at this well-known independent bookstore.  At the top of my list of fears was my reunion with my Cuban cousins whom I hadn’t seen in over 35 years.  Would they be upset with my mentioning them in my book?  Would they be unhappy with my exposure of some of the family’s dirty laundry?  I was also afraid on a larger scale as well – would my views of a more compassionate policy towards illegal immigrants as well as the normalizing ofUS/Cuba relations engender some kind of anti Guillermo Vidal response from Miami Cubans?
Contrary to my irrational panic, the evening turned out to be a lovely event.  For the mostly Cuban crowd in attendance it turned out to be a moving experience.  Many tears were shed as I read about the day my brothers and I were separated from our parents.  The separation stories for each one of us children of Operation Peter Pan may be different, but my description of our time in the Havana Airport, called “la Pescera”, brought out the common sense of despair each one of us felt as we said goodby to our parents.  For me personally the reading brought a myriad of gifts.  Although I was expecting that two of my cousins  would make an apperance, seeing them for the first time in decades jump-started my joyful yet tearful emotions.  I was also moved by the unnexpected presence of three of the Cuban kids who had been residents of Sacred Heart Home during my time there – all of us still connected to one another out o f our traumatic experience at this orphanage.  An old friend of my father’s was also present and it was heart warming to know he had very fond memories of Papi.
Overall, I thought the reading was a great success and one that proved to me that my immigration story is universal in its appeal and is as relevant in Miami as it is in Denver.
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