On Wednesday, August 31, 1994, I left Cuba in A boat. This experience changed my life forever. I went with dreams and aspirations I could not fulfill in my birthplace. The night or Thursday, September 1, 1994, was terrible for us. A storm hit us; our boat was banged against the water like thrown from a higher altitude.
At times we could see the moon reflection "down there", seconds later, hit the water with a deep sound of metal hitting the water, making you jump from your seat.
We were not welcome.
The storm had returned us to Cuba. After arriving in Cuba, all tired and shaken up. A state security guard reminded us we were not welcome in that area of Cuba, a beach reserved for the elite and their families. In retrospect, this guard reminded us why we were leaving a country with no future or place for people like us. Different political ideology or even just for the mere fact of wanting to do more with our lives were just not enough to fit this society.
We were all scared by the whole ordeal of losing our water, food, and even followed by sharks visible within the ocean waves. So much so I clearly remembered the sunlight reflecting on the sharkskin. It is a miracle all 9 of us survive, so to see most of my friends leave the beach was understandable. I stayed with another friend, and the next day we tried again. Due to our location (near Havana), the US coast guard picked us up in 24 hours.
I was picked up at sea by the US coast guard Monday morning, September 5, 1994. I felt a rush of excitement. I could not believe I had h the possibility of going to the US. Ever since I was a teenager, I dreamed of this day! Even after been forced into the military service in Cuba, I would go to English night school before coming home.
Arriving at Guantanamo bay
We were transferred to other boats and travel on them from the western part of Cuba (Havana) to Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba. Upon arriving at Guantanamo Bay, a government representative read a written memorandum from the US president (Bill Clinton). We will be allowed into the US under no circumstance.
Some people felt discouraged by this; however, we all knew we would end up at Guantanamo. For me, Guantanamo meant a steppingstone an opportunity to get to the US. I spent 13 months in Guantanamo bay doing voluntary work with the US military and world relief. I was finally accepted by immigration to come to the US, and they brought me to Miami, where I had family waiting for me.
In Guantanamo Bay, I used my time by volunteering with World Relief and the US military. I was teaching a computer class at the refugee center. I also took English classes and I improved my English.
Years back in Cuba, my friends and I will write down the lyrics of rock songs, and we will clandestinely listen to US FM and TV stations from Florida. My English was good, and I offered my translation services to the coast guard. I felt a duty to pay back since that very first day.
Welcome to Miami
Shortly after arriving in Miami, I worked in construction and doing odd jobs until I was able to get a job at a hospital as an orderly in a surgery room. I got my first professional job doing computer tech support for a food chain in Miami and later working for a stock market software company. I always had dreamed of having my own business, and by 1997 I was on my own doing computer networks and other computer related jobs.
MyCubanStore is born
In December 2002, my wife and I created Mycubanstore.com with the idea of selling Cuban memorabilia; instead, we discovered the popularity of the Guayabera shirts. I worked part-time in this new venture until it grew and was profitable.
We started shipping guayabera shirts from a small room in our house, and we will pack the orders and place them in the car. Since I had two jobs, we will drive to the Miami airport (which opened late) and drop the delivery cargo.
Our service had always been our main distinction from day one we decided we wanted to offer a bit more for our customers. We implemented a 365 days return poly and free shipping options since day one. We moved from our house to a small warehouse and then to a bigger one and so on. We had always grown our business organically with the customer in mind, be honest, and offering real value for our customers. Our guayaberas are very popular worldwide, and they are trendy at destination weddings and other celebrations.
I became a US citizen at the exact time I was able to. I always felt a duty to pay it forward and not forget the sacrifices I made to get here. This country has always been the last hope for people in search or refuge. Therefore, I genuinely hope it remains like that.
As a nation, we need to continue to have a heart and see potential in every human being regardless of race, ethnicity, and economic status. We all have aspirations and unique abilities, and I genuinely believe here in the US, a person can fulfill its dreams for its benefit and the benefit of humanity.
I'm forever grateful for this great country, I have a great family I love, and a business I feel very passionate. One time I remember telling a friend how grateful I was of his country.
He replied by telling me, not my country Alexis, is our country, and I honestly had always felt this way!
The best way to predict your future is to create it.