The Miami Herald

Mercedes Vildosola

Thank you for your efforts in compiling a database of all of us who came during the Freedom Flights. Our family started the journey from our hometown of Victoria de las Tunas, Oriente on April 7, 1967. My mom's cousin drove us to Camaguey for an overnight stay at my father's oldest sister. Next day we traveled by train to Havana for another overnight stay at another aunt's apartment in Vedado. We were driven to Varadero very early on the 10th of April. We were afraid that our trip would be canceled so we brought very little and were given only a sandwich and water by the airport authorities until our departure in the evening. Our first airplane ride also included our first taste of Coke, which tasted superb. Upon arrival, my father was taken away for debriefing and my paternal grandmother, mother, brother and myself were taken to La Casa de la Libertad. We were assigned a room with bunk beds and the next morning were fed the most wonderful pancakes and syrup. Since we did not have clothing and we were to travel to California, the Catholic Charities outfitted us with coats, etc. We were so glad to be free and so appreciative , we didn't mind the used clothing. When we arrived in LA, we were also welcomed by the Church and family and hometown friends who brought us groceries and made us feel great. Back then, we all thought we would be back home in a few months... Please note your data base with our family group: Name Entry Flag Reynaldo de los Reyes Hechavarria April 10, 1967 Parolee/Airlift Enna Rivero Perez April 10, 1967 Parolee/Airlift Caridad Hechavarria Machado April 10, 1967 Parolee/Airlift Hector de los Reyes Rivero April 10, 1967 Parolee/Airlift Maria Mercedes de los Reyes Rivero April 10, 1967 Parolee/Airlift We moved to Miami in 1975 because my grandmother wanted to be closer to Cuba. She passed away in 1989 but was able to visit her children twice when flights opened up in 1978. My mom passed away in 2005 and always said she felt like she was born here, she never returned but kept in touch with her family there. I and my brother have never returned but always cared about a free Cuba and the fate of those left behind. Thank you again. Happy Holidays! Mercedes Vildosola



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