Jorge Babot Gonzalez
My brother Ramon (Ray) and I arrived in Kendall, FL 8/8/61 and were transferred to Saint Patrick's orphanage in Sacramento, CA on 8/19/61. As I was rather spoiled and a risk-taker I ran away from the orphanage several times, hoping to get away from a particularly abusive nun and make my way back home; I was usually apprehended within a few blocks. Mom and dad were allowed to leave Cuba in December of the same year and they located in Sacramento with the help of the Catholic Church and some very kind and generous families.
Mom did laundry and ironing during the day and dad worked in a sawmill. After he got off work he delivered the cleaned and pressed laundry and picked up more for the next day. By 1964 they bought their first home in Sacramento. They produced two little brothers for me in 1964 and -65, Michael and Johnny, who currently live in San Antonio and Austin Texas. I attended Hiram Johnson Senior High school and was a member of the diving team until half-way through 11th grade, when we moved to Vallejo.
Vallejo was, and still is, a town divided along racial lines and I was poorly prepared for that. I fought all of the fights I have ever fought in my life at Vallejo High and was beaten up twice by marauding gangs during the race riots of 1967/68. Adding insult to injury, the school didnít have a swimming team, much less a diving team. My grades went from stellar to cellar and I dropped out of school in my senior year. But this is where I met my wife and had my first two children.
At age 18 I got a job at a nearby oil refinery and bought my first house at 19. Went through a 4-year apprenticeship in Instrumentation and Control Systems, worked as a craftsman for 10 years, and then traveled throughout western states starting up power plants. I settled in Eureka, CA and later built my dream home in Trinidad, California, about 90 miles from the Oregon Border, surrounded by giant redwoods and on the ocean. This is where I adopted two children and a surprise daughter was born.
Although I had a very good job as Manager of Maintenance and Engineering at a pulp mill, the economy in the area was meager and based on timber and fishing. Some of the larger timber companies, one of which was my employer, were cutting timber at far beyond the landís capacity to recover. This did two things: 1, it angered the population, which resulted in the demise of the timber industry and 2, the loss of shade from trees in streams warmed the waters, discouraging the salmon runs upstream to spawn, killing the fishing industry. Having read the writing on the wall, I left and came back to the San Francisco Bay area.
As mentioned earlier I am a risk-taker. My love for almost 40 years was white water rafting. I also tried my hand at sky-diving, did 9 jumps before I munched a knee, and hang-gliding until I realized how expensive it was while trying to raise two little boys.
As of today, August 10, 2013, I am 63, happily married and working as a supervisor of Instrumentation Technicians at a Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, CA. My brother Ray, who is 64 and came at the same time, lives in Vallejo also. My mother is 85 and living in Benicia, CA., 10 miles from me. I have 3 sons and 2 daughters, 9 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild (as of this past Thursday!). My father Ramon passed away in 2003.
I am proud to be Cuban and my children boast of their heritage. I visited Cuba in 2008 with my two little brothers; a trip that left me with emotions I still do not understand and thought I would never return. That same year my youngest daughter started high school and asked me to take her to Cuba as a graduation present. We went in June of 2012.
One last thing. I believe I would have ended up leaving Cuba anyway. Since I canít dance and donít care for baseball, I think I would have been kicked out.