Cuban Miami - A Story Book

My family left Cuba in early 1961.

My brother was on the first Pedro Pan flight in December of 1960. Happily, my family was only separated for a few very tense months. But we were part of the lucky few who managed to leave the country rather quickly.

Once reunited, my father vowed we'd never be separated again and so when my older sisters were to be married in California, he packed up the family and we never looked back.

We lived in Miami for the first 3 years of our exile, before my parents moved us across the country and so we made our lives in Southern California.

As Cubans in California - "en el exilio del exilio" - we managed to find other Cuban families and connected with the familiar community of people who spoke our language and recognized our customs and our food.

Verdes sisters 63
My sisters and me. Miami, circa 1962.

There were other waves of Cuban refugees. But unarguably, those who landed in Miami during the early 1960's and 70's were the ones who built that city. 

I've just received a copy of the beautiful book, Historic Photos of Cuban Miami by Jennifer Ortiz. With nearly 200 black and white photographs and detailed captions and stories. It has simultaneously captivated my attention, made me joyful and fiercely proud, but also broken my heart.

Cubans are amazing people, individually and collectively.

Cuban Miami

My mom poured over the book for hours, pointing out familiar faces and reciting the names of the former presidents of Cuba who lived in Miami in exile. We sat together and turned pages and it was like I was a child once again. I sat quietly as each photo triggered a memory and she told me story after story.

She pointed to a photo, "My first visit to Miami was aboard the S.S. Florida." She remembered her excitement and how she and my dad packed as if for a world cruise rather than a weekend trip.

SS Florida
She marveled over the photos of the historic Vizcaya Estate and laughed out loud as she saw the photos and remembered moments from the ground-breaking television show, "Que Pasa, USA?"

The folks at Turner Publishing have generously sent me a copy of this gorgeous coffee table book to give away. Yes, to give away. (I know. Shut up.)

To be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment here on this post. I'd love to hear your answers to these 3 questions:

  • Where in Cuba is your family from?
  • What year did they arrive in the U.S?
  • Do you still have family there?

I'll be choosing a winner on Monday, June 21, 2010 at 11 am Pacific Time.

By the way, this is my answer:

"Havana. 1961. Yes."

(cross-posted on BabalΓΊ blog.)