Every year in August I remember that Wednesday August 31 1994 when I left Cuba in A boat. This experience changed my life forever. I left 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 with so much force our boat was banged against the water as if we were 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.
After arriving in Cuba all tired and shaken up been survived the storm. We were reminded by a state security guard we were not welcome in that area of Cuba, a beach reserved for the elite and their families.
In retrospect this guard kind of 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 mare fact of wanting to do more with our lives were just not enough to fit in this society.
Our group was dispersed out of the 9 persons only two reminded at the beach. We were all really scared by the whole ordeal of losing our water, food, and even been followed by sharks clearly visible within waves. So much so I clearly remembered the sunlight reflecting on the shark skin.
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. This time due to our location (near Havana) we were picked 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 was rescued with a 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.
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.
Arriving at Guantanamo bay
We were transferred to other boats and travel on them from the western part of Cuba (Havana) all the way to Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba.
Upon arriving at Guantanamo bay, we were told by a written memorandum from the president of the US (Bill Clinton) that under no circumstance we will be allowed into the US.
Some people felt discouraged by this, however we all knew we were going to end up at Guantanamo since it was announced a few days before our departure from Cuba. 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.
I was given some certificates and letter as recognition for my work:
Welcome to Miami
Shortly after arriving in Miami I was working in construction and doing odd jobs until I was able to get a job at a hospital as an orderly in a surgery room.
From that 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 was 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 this new venture until it grew and was profitable.
We started shipping guayabera shirts from a small room in our house, we will pack the orders and place them in the car, after my other job was completed we will drive to the Miami airport (which opened late) and drop the cargo there for delivery.
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, been honest and offering true value for our customers.
I became a US citizen at the exact time I was able to. I always remember the time on which all I had with me was hope and the opportunity given to me.
I always felt a duty to pay it forward and not to forget were I come from. This country has always been the last hope for people in search or refuge therefor I truly 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 are all have aspirations and unique abilities and I truly believe here in the US a person can fulfill its dreams for its own benefit and the benefit of humanity.
I’m forever grateful of this great country, I have a great family which I love, and a business I feel very passionate about.
At the beginning of living in the US 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 truly had always felt this way!
The best way to predict your future is to create it.https://news.wsiu.org/post/governor-goofs-honest-abe-quote#stream/0
Other Cuban rafters Success stories here.