After months of preparation and anticipation our plans came to fruition on March 22, 1962. Our parents had decided that due to the political situation the best course of action was for us to leave Cuba. It was a hard and brave decision on their part to send the four of us ahead to face a new life in another country. They were to join us later.
That day is so fresh in my memory. There was the drama at the airport when we were not sure if they would let us leave. Once that was cleared we proceeded to customs where they checked our luggage. It was decided that my sister and I did not need two separate suitcases and our belongings were stuffed into one. They confiscated my gold chain with a St. Joseph medal that had been given to my father by his sister Mimí when he was ill. In their search they found a bar of soap. It was a facial soap my sister used and we had packed one in my suitcase so she could have an extra one. They were taking it away and nervously I turned to my sister and told her. My sixteen year old sister bravely and forcefully spoke up to the official telling him it was for medicinal purposes and they could not take it. It worked!
Meantime, my brothers were experiencing the same situation. It was also decided that they needed only one piece of luggage. In their case they were going to two different destinations and they pointed it out to them, but it made no difference. They had taken away their jackets, but in the switching of the clothes to just one bag Santiago played a sleight of hand and stuffed the two jackets into the bag.
Then we were off and our lives would be changed forever. We were never to see our father in this world again. He died before we could be reunited. I am grateful to my parents for their decision. I know it took a lot of courage. Even the best decision can bring with it a loss and in the 50 years since that day I have never regained that sense of security and belonging that filled my childhood.