Little did we know when Ben and I got married in Havana in 1958 and came to Miami for our honeymoon that this city would be our home for the rest of our lives.
We spent two wonderful weeks in Miami Beach in a hotel named “Sands,” and visited all the tourist attractions, such as Vizcaya, the Seaquarium, Coral Castle, the Boom Boom Room at the Fontainebleau Hotel, Eden Roc, Castaways and so on. Miami was a sleepy town where all restaurants closed before 10 o’clock. However, there was night life on Miami Beach.
We came back to our peaceful lives in Cuba, but on December 31, 1958, the communist government took over.
Every day we were waiting for something to happen that would end that horrible nightmare. We could not comprehend how the American government would allow a communist regime with Russian missiles, 90 miles away.
In 1963, the American Red Cross put together a fleet of several cargo ships to transport the Bay of Pigs prisoners and their families to the United States. At this point, we decided to leave our country. We had to abandon all possessions and leave everything behind. It was heartbreaking. We came in the berths of a ship named American Surveyor, and because we both were fluent in English, we were selected to be the ship’s translators.
We were given one cot for every two people, but I was bringing a 9-month-old baby girl to her parents in Miami, so she got our cot. My parents, Mariano Cordova and Dulce Maria Tascon, and my brother-in-law, Daniel, also came with us in this ship. We brought our dog, Canela, as well. We encountered extremely rough weather and as a result, the trip, which normally would have taken 12 hours, lasted 20. Parents with babies were bringing them in shoe boxes (for lack of cribs). It was really horrific.
We finally arrived at Port Everglades on April 29, 1963, all disheveled and dirty from the ship furnaces. We were transported on buses to the old Opa-locka airport where our relatives and friends were waiting for us. I gave the baby to her parents and never heard from them again. She must be 51 years old by now. I have always wondered what became of her -- did she marry, and does she have any children? Has she ever been told how she came from Cuba and who brought her?
Because Ben’s relatives were living in Miami Beach, we started our life there and rented a one-bedroom apartment on Ocean Drive in the “Ocean Front Apartments.” It belonged to two older brothers and a sister who were marvelous with us refugees. They learned to speak Spanish and played dominoes with us. It was like a big family.
I remember the two movie theaters, the Cameo and the Cinema, which showed movies for 25 cents before 6 o’clock, and after that it would go up to 50 cents. We ran like crazy to get to the movies before 6 p.m. We were so far behind in the movie business that any film was brand new to us.
I landed a secretarial job at the Mercantile National Bank at 420 Lincoln Road. My husband was offered a position as a teacher’s aide at Southside Elementary in downtown Miami, where all of the newly arrived Cuban children were studying. He served as an interpreter, teacher’s aide, worked at the school office, and did whatever the principal would ask him to do, such as bringing her coffee and doughnuts from the Royal Castle nearby. This school has been designated a historical landmark in downtown Miami.