A Long Road from Camaguey, Cuba

January 5, 2011

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.

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