I was only 9 years old, but remember that day as if it was today. We left very early one unusually cool morning on January 29, 1962. It was dark and we were supposed to meet with my father, Capitan Eduardo Valladares at the airport. My mother (Roxana), brother (Angel Eduardo) and I piled along with my grandparents in a car. I don't remember much of the ride; but I can't seem to erase the image of all of my grandparents staring and crying from inside a glassed room. We three sat essentially motion less in a large waiting room as we waited for my father to join us. Later I was told that the glassed room was called "la pesera" where loved ones and relatives were allowed to say goodbye to those fleeing the island. Now it was time to board and all of our belongings were being rifled through by men dressed in green outfits. When they finished "looking" through the entire "luggage" I was told I could only bring my little doll not my big baby doll. My mother became upset that her neatly packed duffle bags were now just piles of clothing stuffed into each of the "gusanos." The luggage was called that because those people fleeing their homeland during this period of time were considered to be cowardly "gusanos." The "gusanos" also had a weight restriction and if it went over you were not allowed to bring it with you at all. Soon as we began our walk up the stairs of the plane, my father joined us and for the first time since we had left our home; my mother seemed calm. Once the plane took off and we were in the air the entire plane erupted in the Cuban National Anthem. Some sang through sobs, others just cried and still some simply sat numb. I sat with my mother and my brother sat across the aisle with my father. Who I thought seemed to be singing (off key) the loudest. My mother encouraged us to sing, because she said it would be the last time we would sing our anthem over Cuban skies.
Roxana Valladares Hart