Coming to America – My Story

A few months ago, my local newspaper, the Orange County Register began soliciting stories for Hispanic Heritage Month. They specifically wanted, they said, stories about the Cuban-American experience. I submitted a piece.


I’m very proud to report that my story not only made the front page(!), but will be the first in a series of contributor stories titled Coming to America. They decided to create a new feature based on my story. (I know. Shut up.)

What a thrill to see my byline in the paper!  Even more so when I realized that it was MY STORY. It was my own personal history documented for the world to see. Even though I’m a blogger and am getting used to seeing my name in print, I was delighted to have the editor of the paper tell me it was very “elegant writing.”

I hope you agree. Here’s my story…

I was born in Havana, Cuba. My family left Cuba on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1961. I know the date because it is stamped on a passport, and forever in my memory.

It cost $21.60 for the half-fare for children to fly the ninety miles from Havana to Miami.

It’s not lost on me that I can easily spend more than that to feed my family at McDonald’s, and that the distance is about roughly from here to San Diego.

We didn’t tell anyone in Cuba that we were leaving. There were no goodbyes. My mother never saw her own mother again.

My dad left Cuba months earlier and was just waiting until my mother could get visas for the five girls.

My brother left Cuba as an unaccompanied minor on Dec. 26, 1960 — one of the original Pedro Pan kids taken in by Father Bryan O. Walsh in Miami.

So it was my mom, and us girls, and 13 suitcases on that midnight flight…
Read the rest here.

Please consider sharing your own stories with us. We’d love to publish them here at the Tiki Tiki.

It’s important for all of us to tell our stories. They define us like nothing else in our lives.

Share, por favor!

By Marta on October 14, 2009 · Posted in featured, the habla habla

3 Comments | Post Comment

Tia Mirtha says:

Felicidades Martha, I love your story. I feel the same way as you do. I came to Miami when I was 11 years old. I am now 63 and I already told my sisters and daughter, that the day I die, to send my ashes to a free Cuba. I am very proud to be an American citizen, by choice. I am Carrie’s aunt. In 1961, where did you go to school in Miami?.

Posted on October 14th, 2009

Marta says:

Hi Tia Mirtha,

Thanks for the kind words.

I went first to Merrick Demonstration School in Coral Gables. Then we moved to Silver Bluff Elementary around 25th Ave. My sisters were at St. Hughes.
My brother stayed in the San Rafael house that was run by Fr. Walsh.
My two oldest sisters eventually moved to California to get married in 1964 (to two Cuban brothers, of course) and my dad couldn’t bear the thought of our family being separated.

The rest, as they say, is history. =)


Posted on October 14th, 2009

Abuela says:

Hola Marta.
Yo soy la mama de Carrie, tambien lei tu articulo con mucha emocion,ya Mirtha lo dijo todo,yo tenia 14 años cuando llegamos a Miami y Cuba siempre esta presente.
Un abrazo.

Posted on October 17th, 2009