The Miami Herald

Guillermo Munoz

MY name is Dr. Guillermo Munoz , I am a physician in Elizabeth NJ and I arrived on the freedom flights on Feb 16, 1971 ( I think it was the 16th ) under the name Guillermo Noa Munoz. I was only 7 yrs old but I, remember vividly that glorious day. I'm from Santiago de Cuba, and i still remember the scene at the bus station when we left Santiago for Varadero. The bus station was mobbed with people that had come to say good bye to us ( It was my mother Zenaida, my brothers Francisco and Alejandro who was a baby, and my sister Vilma.....my father and my oldest brother had left a year before but had gone to Spain )....everybody was crying, including myself because i did not want to leave my grandmother behind. My family was pretty popular in Santiago among the catholic community there, we were very active in the church. My brother Frank, my sister Vilma and I used to sing in the churches in Santiago, including the Cathedral, for many church events...we were known as " Los Tres Hermanos" and sang songs that were composed for us by a priest from the cathedral who was very close to us...his name was Rene Abreu. Anyway....we left Santiago and we stopped at Varadero at a friends house, and we were to leave the next morning. I remember that morning, my last morning in Cuba, we went to the beach that was nearby so that we can feel and hold in our hands the famous sands of varadero beaches....we had never been there before, so it was one of my last memories of the island....i think back at that day and still to this day i remember standing on the sand, touching it , and blowing it out of my hands into the winds.....it was very emotional, even to me who was only seven years old. I also remember my mother having a fit with me at the airport ( she was very nervous....traveling alone with 4 kids to The USA where we had no family ) because i had written some addresses down on a little piece of paper and had hidden it in my shoes so it could not be found by the "milicianos" that were checking people that were leaving. In those days , they ( the government ) did not let you take anything with you out of Cuba,......pictures,memorabilia, jewelry, and even addresses of people..... they did not want you to take anything with you except for some clothes. My mother had told me stories of people that were not allowed to leave because they tried sneaking things out ( like jewelry that were hidden in women's genitalia ).......and here i was , a seven y/o little boy trying to sneak out of Cuba my Godfather's address. Even better yet, my little brother who was almost 3 years old did something really funny. When we arrived in Miami, they took us to " La Casa de la Libertad ", and there they gave us boxed lunches. When my little brother opened up his box and saw a jam sandwich, he got up from his chair, took the piece of ham and started waving it around the room yelling out, "jamon !, jamon! ....mira ,jamon !! ". All the refugees that were in the room with us started cracking up.......amazing that a little 3 y/o boy was so excited about eating ham...something that he knew, at the age of three, he did not have in Cuba...boy, he ate and enjoyed that piece of ham as though it were a large piece of cake. We stayed at a hotel somewhere that night and took a flight the next day to NJ, where the folks that had sponsored us lived. It was winter when we arrived in NJ and there was snow on the ground. Not only that, but it was freezing.....this was the only thing I did not like at first.....I thought the snow was really "cool", but I could have done without the cold. And that's what I remember of our first few days in the US. My dad and brother came from Spain in September, and the family was reunited again. We have all been in Jersey ever since, and the rest of our story has been nothing less than success. If you would like to elaborate more on this , feel free to contact me.

Extremely proud to be in this country, Guillermo Munoz




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