How I left Cuba in a boat, was a refugee in Guantanamo bay and created my business in Miami.

How I left Cuba in a boat, was a refugee in Guantanamo bay and created my business in Miami.

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.

Me at Guantanamo Bay 1994 - 1995
Me at Guantanamo Bay 1994 – 1995

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.

Me in Guantanamo Bay (black t shirt)
Me in Guantanamo Bay (black t shirt)

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.

The rescue

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.

Teaching computer at the refugee center.
Teaching computer at the refugee center.

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.

Me (Black t-shirt) at the Guantanamo Bay refugee camp.
Me (Black t-shirt) at the Guantanamo Bay refugee camp.

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.

MyCubanStore Warehouse and Showroom today
MyCubanStore Warehouse and Showroom today

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.

MyCubanStore Customers Reviews
MycubanStore.com Customers Reviews

Conclusions

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.

Abraham Lincoln

https://news.wsiu.org/post/governor-goofs-honest-abe-quote#stream/0

Other Cuban rafters Success stories here.

6 Comments
  1. Boy what a great story Alexis. You had what it took to get to the United States. I only wish that there would be another 2 million people like your wife and you. Your loyalty and love for this country shows. We never forget where we are from, your country Cuba what I saw on September 24, 2018 was full of loving Cubans that welcomed us Americans with open arms. I remember the bus driver and the tour guide of course both Cuban men who were a delight to listen to. I hope one day I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba for a longer period perhaps to talk with the same bus driver and tour guide. Both men were well educated in fact the tour guide was a teacher I believe of English. I met another middle aged man an artist who had made a wooden piece of art of Che Guevara. I couldn’t copy and paste some photographs that I took. What a piece of beauty the artwork made out of wood. I believe the Cuban person already knows adversity before anything else. I’ve read extensively about the time period from 1946 to about 2000. The Cuban people are strong for all of the pain Cubans went through during that time period. Yet through it all, with you, you have more loyalty then what I have seen even for people that have served in the US military. You and your wife are success stories most definitely. You and your wife took adversity and turned it into hope and prosperity. You were a young man when you came and that alone your youth is remarkable that you had the insight into what you really wanted to do in your life. I commend both of you for that. Your store is much bigger than I thought, and one day I will be walking through the entrance of your store to buy some shirts. I have a friend who actually teaches at the Miami Dade College I believe not to far from your store. You are a good friend Alexis. Your product is superior to any other shirt I know.

    Warmly,

    Pedro

    Peter Robert-James Sheldon

    1. Hello, Thanks for your kind words. We are grateful and never forget were we come from. Yes my store is very close to Miami-Dade college in Kendall come by anytime.

  2. Wow, what an incredible story, I admire you for what you have accomplished. We are truly blessed. I also left Cuba in the early 60s as a young 4 year old. My parents and I started our lives here and have been blessed ever since. This is a great country we live in I have always taught my children how blessed we are living in such an incredible country full of freedom and opportunities. God bless.

    1. Thank you Sr., Indeed this is a great country, its up to us to remind our kids about this. There is lots of noise constantly about the country many issues but this is also what makes it great, everyone has a voice and a platform. Thanks for reading my blog have a wonderful day!

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