José Antonio Amaro Reyes

General Information
Current Name
Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
José Antonio Amaro Reyes
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Tuesday, August 14, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Matecumbe

José Antonio's Story

Remarks:An English translation is provided below for non-Spanish speaking relatives and friends.

Nací en el antiguo municipio de Holguín de la antigua provincia de Oriente en el año 1948. Fui bauti...

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Award-winning NYT journalist Mirta Ojito, who fled Cuba at age 16 during the Mariel boatlift in 1980, returned to Havana immediately following the Pope's visit in 1998 and filed the following story about Cuba's children. Given current social and economic conditions, her story is still relevant some 13 years later. Havana Journal; Divided Loyalties Tugging at Cuba's Children/The New York Times/By Mirta Ojito/Published: February 18, 1998: HAVANA — More than eight years after the cold war melted in the rubble of the Berlin wall, the children of Cuba continue to dive under desks in schools all over the island. The drills serve to reinforce the most pervasive ideological lesson in Cuba's schools: that the United States is evil and that Cubans must always be ready to defend themselves. That old message, fashioned after the Bay of Pigs invasion and the missile crisis in the early 1960's, is fed constantly to children here even when there are no tensions between the United States and any other country, as there are with Iraq now. But it is an especially poignant message today when most families in Cuba have relatives in the United States and when, faced with enormous economic difficulties, the Cuban Government has allowed dollars to circulate freely on the island. Nowadays, when children come home from the war drills, they slip on shoes bought with dollars sent by their grandparents in Miami or, in some cases, they work odd jobs catering to American tourists to earn dollars themselves. In the mornings, William Jose Diaz, a 12-year-old Pioneer who is in eighth grade, swears to defend the Cuban flag against ''los Americanos.'' In the evenings, he rushes to open the doors of tourists cars. He works outside Pain de Paris, an expensive bakery in Vedado. Most nights, he makes at least $2. When someone handed him $1 recently, the boy rushed home to buy bananas for dinner. Years ago, it was easier for parents to keep their children blissfully unaware of both their true political feelings and the hardships they went through. But now, with the country's economy in chaos, even young children know that once they turn 7 they lose the right to buy milk. They know that the Government issues only two school uniforms during elementary school -- one in kindergarten and the other in fifth grade. And that they are no longer able to buy toys because the Government did away with the yearly ritual of selling toys to children on the 26th of July, the anniversary of the beginning of Fidel Castro's armed uprising in 1953. The contradictions of their young lives -- hearing one message in school and another, radically different, at home -- confuses some children. Their teachers want them to fight the Americans; their parents want to join them or, at least, to get some of their dollars. ''Mom,'' a 7-year-old girl recently asked her mother, ''if William Clinton is so bad, why do we want to go live with him?'' Trusting their children and thinking them ready to absorb contrasting messages, many parents openly discuss their beliefs in front of them and even mock the revolutionary slogans and songs they bring home. But then they ask their children to keep it to themselves. Some parents fear that their children will be ostracized if their teachers know that they live in a non-revolutionary home. Parents who make a living in what the Government considers illegal activities -- renting a room or selling cigars without a license -- also fear that, if their children talk, the Government may confiscate their goods, fine them or, in some cases, jail them. The burden of living in two distinct realities affects some children in psychological and physical ways. Teresita, a 14-year-old ninth grader who lives in Old Havana, said she had never told her best friend that her parents desperately want to leave the country. She has also never told anyone that, when the doors are locked, her mother rants against President Castro, blaming his Government for the scarcities in their home. Two months ago, Teresita began to shed the hairs of her arms and legs. The doctors told her that she lacked some essential vitamins in her diet; the mother thinks it is a result of stress. A 52-year-old writer who insisted on being identified only by his first name, Angel, cannot stand a song praising the revolution that his 9-year-old daughter has been singing lately. He tells her to stop and his daughter obeys. The mother, worried about her daughter, intercedes. ''You want your children to be a full member of the family, to know how you feel about everything,'' said the mother, a member of the Communist Party who long ago grew disenchanted with the revolution but outside the home pretends to be as enthusiastic as ever. ''But I worry sometimes how all this is going to affect her and how much contradiction she can really absorb in her young mind.'' Yet the girl's mother, in a fit of anger, recently ripped to pieces her red Communist Party ID and threw it out the window. It was her daughter who ran three flights downstairs in a panic to retrieve the picture from the sidewalk so that no one would ever know what her mother had done. While Angel helps his daughter with her homework, he systematically deconstructs everything she has been taught at school. She is now learning about Jose Marti, a 19th-century patriot who fought to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism. In Cuba today, Marti is also regarded as the intellectual precursor of the revolution. Angel tells his daughter that Marti would never have supported Mr. Castro's Government. The little girl giggles and rolls her eyes. But there is very little that parents can do to shape their children's education. In a country with no private schools and compulsory education until ninth grade, parents are forced to send their children to state-run schools. They also have no say about the curriculum and, more and more these days, very little about their children's extracurricular activities. Some parents try to exert control by taking their children late to school to avoid the morning ritual where students salute the flag, sing the national anthem and repeat revolutionary slogans. Others are turning to religion, hoping that lessons in catechism will open their children's minds to other points of view. The Roman Catholic Church is taking full advantage of it. To make the shift easier for the children, it is incorporating some of the messages children hear in school into Sunday sermons. It is not unusual for priests now to somehow link Cuba's patriots to religion. At a recent Mass here, Jaime Cardinal Ortega Alamino drew cheers from his mostly young listeners when he reminded them that the full name of Antonio Maceo, one of Cuba's most revered martyrs, was Antonio de la Caridad, a clear reference to Cuba's patriot saint, Our Lady of Charity. Priests in some churches are also enticing children to attend Mass and catechism classes through a system of bonuses and rewards. Children receive bonuses for every Mass and catechism class they attend. Once a week, they can exchange the bonuses for gifts like gum, clothing, pencils and toys, all donated from churches abroad. ''They get things they want and need and we get an opportunity to show them the church's way,'' said the Rev. Jesus Maria Lusarreta, a priest at La Milagrosa, where more than 400 children attend catechism weekly. During his five-day visit to Cuba in January, Pope John Paul II referred to Cuba's youth in two of the four Masses he held. At the first, in Santa Clara, some parents nodded in silence when the Pope said, ''Parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.'' But it is difficult for parents to heed the Pope's words. Elementary school children go to school here from 8 A.M. to 4:20 P.M. On Saturdays, they often return to school for sports or political events. Sometimes they sleep over in the school to await so-called Domingos de Defensa, Sundays of Defense, days in which the children practice what it is like to be under attack and receive their lessons in a bunker. Marta Perez Herrera, deputy director of Pepito Tey, an elementary school in Old Havana, said that, beginning in third grade, children are trained by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, who teach them everything from patriotic symbols to military moves. At a recent practice session in a park, uniformed men were training young children to march as one. While the children marched, a 16-year-old girl in tight pink shorts stood in a corner a few blocks away eyeing foreigners. The girl, Yanel Noa, said she dropped out of school because she did not want to work in the fields, a requirement for all students in high school. Had she continued in school, she would have become a dancer, she said. For now, she lives off the charity of a special friend: a 32-year-old married American man who often travels to Cuba loaded with cash.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jan 31st 2011

Hi Jose, please contact me, I believe you knew my mother ages ago, Grisel Pena. My email is:

Message by Barbara Oldham | Jan 15th 2011

Excelente articulo Jose Antonio!

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Jan 6th 2011

Here's an interesting article on Operation Pedro Pan's 50th anniversary written by Elizabeth Burgos,Venezuelan anthropologist and author, from her residence in Paris: A los 50 años del éxodo de los niños “Pedro Pan” Escrito por Elizabeth Burgos el Dec 16th, 2010 La “Operación Pedro Pan” es sin duda uno de los momentos más cargados de sentimientos trágicos en la historia del castrismo. Consistió en el envío masivo de niños cubanos a Estados Unidos. Entre 1960 y 1962, 14.048 niños no acompañados por sus padres abandonaron Cuba con destino a Miami. La recepción en el país del norte formó parte de un programa organizado por una oficina de caridad de la Iglesia de Estado Unidos, el Catholic Welfare Bureau, creado con el objeto de facilitar la salida de miles de niños que habían asistido a escuelas católicas clausuradas por Fidel Castro en 1959. La decisión de enviar a sus hijos, mientras los padres tramitaban la visa, fue tomada debido a la urgencia que planteó la militarización acelerada de niños y jóvenes obligados a sumarse a las recién creadas milicias; a la disgregación decidida por el régimen de las familias mediante el plan de becas masivas organizado con el objeto de separar a los hijos de los padres; a la participación de los jóvenes en la campaña de alfabetización enviándolos a zonas rurales alejadas de sus hogares en donde, en particular, se desarrollaban guerrillas anti-castristas que formaban parte de la guerra civil que tuvo lugar en Cuba tras la toma del poder en el ‘59. Fue esa una guerra secreta, larvada, en la que participaron miles de combatientes, cuya existencia a penas hace poco fue admitida por Fidel Castro. De hecho, batallones de niños tomaron parte en ella del lado oficial y se les otorgó el título de “niños héroes del Escambray”: nombre de la zona en donde la guerra fue más encarnizada. Es de imaginar el dilema de los padres ante la dramática disyuntiva que se les planteó de separarse de sus hijos, pensaban que momentáneamente, o correr el riesgo de verlos convertidos en milicianos – esa fuerza de choque destinada a la defensa de la revolución que llegó a tener un millón de efectivos-, o que se sumaran a la oposición, corriendo el riesgo de perder la vida. Es de recordar que en la primera fase de la revolución se instauró la pena de muerte por delitos “contrarrevolucionarios” y menores de edad fueron fusilados. No contaban los padres de esos niños con que la crisis entre Cuba y Estados Unidos cobraría ribetes extremos. La creencia de la mayoría de los cubanos era que el de Castro sería un gobierno pasajero porque Estados Unidos no iba a permitir la instauración de un régimen comunista en su vecindad y que en poco tiempo las cosas se resolverían. Sin embargo, una semana después de la llegada del primer grupo de niños, se produjo la ruptura de las relaciones diplomáticas entre ambos países. Luego, la crisis de los misiles se sumó a la radicalización del contexto. Fue ese el momento cuando en realidad Cuba fue sometida a un bloqueo por parte de Estados Unidos. Tras ese episodio, la autorización para abandonar la isla, se convirtió en una imposibilidad para los padres de aquellos muchachos y para los cubanos en general. La vida de esos niños tomó diversos cursos pero es de imaginar el drama que significó para ellos. Algunos fueron acogidos en orfelinatos, otros en el seno de familias norteamericanas. La edad variaba. Había niños de apenas cinco años, otros eran ya adolescentes. El testimonio conmovedor de una pareja que tenía cinco hijos, todos enviados a Miami, que al regresar del aeropuerto a su casa se “encontraron con una casa llena de juguetes y sumida en un silencio total” da idea del desgarramiento que ese éxodo produjo. Fue necesario que transcurrieran cuarenta años para que algunos de esos “Pedro Pan” decidieran dar testimonio de la dolorosa experiencia: varios se han publicado en los últimos tiempos y expresan esa fase dramática de sus vidas y lo que al mismo tiempo, para muchos de ellos, significó la posibilidad de integrarse de manera precoz a la sociedad norteamericana, adquiriendo el dominio de la lengua y los códigos culturales de la sociedad americana. Los “Pedro Pan” constituyen una suerte de micro-sociedad y – es entre ellos- que se encuentran algunos de los miembros más exitosos de la comunidad cubana: gerentes de grandes compañías, embajadores, (Eduardo Aguirre, embajador de EEUU en España), senadores (Mel Martínez, senador por la Florida), el músico Willie Chirinos y su esposa Lisette Álvarez. Hoy, muchos han tomado la iniciativa de organizarse en asociación, buscando reunir a aquellos que viven en diferentes lugares. Crear un archivo de esa memoria. Ese deseo de reencontrarse, de confrontar experiencias, significa la necesidad de reconstruir la memoria de una infancia interrumpida bruscamente; una infancia que perdió sus referencias geográficas, físicas y afectivas. Vivieron la pérdida del país natal y del hogar, tan importantes en el seno de la familia cubana. Cuando llegan las noticias del éxodo de jóvenes profesionales o no, que se está operando en Venezuela, conviene rememorar la tragedia que han vivido los cubanos.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jan 6th 2011

Food for thought - Artículo redactado por Tania Díaz Castro desde La Habana en octubre de 2009. Thursday, October 22, 2009 - Niños políticos, por Tania Díaz Castro: LA HABANA, Cuba, octubre ( Recuerdo a mis hijos cuando salían sofocados de la escuela, con la pañoleta de la Organización de Pioneros amarrada a la maleta de los libros. En la primera oportunidad se libraban de ella, porque aquella tela de nylon de color rojo amarrada al cuello, no la soportaban. Han transcurrido cincuenta años de castrismo militar y todavía los niños cubanos, desde el preescolar, están obligados no solamente a llevar puesta la pañoleta como pioneros"moncadistas", sino además, jurar a grito pelado antes de entrar al aula, que serán como el guerrillero argentino Ernesto Ché Guevara, cuando sean grandes. No es de extrañar entonces que miles de cubanos, con ideologías diferentes, enviaran a sus hijos a países democráticos, como ocurrió por ejemplo, en el éxodo de 1960, conocido como Operación Peter Pan, organizado por la Iglesia Católica. Gracias a esa operación 14 mil niños salieron de Cuba hacia Estados Unidos. En días pasados el señor José Juan Ortiz, representante en Cuba del fondo de Naciones Unidas para la Infancia -UNICEF-, expresó a través de la prensa estatal que la realidad cubana, con relación a los derechos del niño, es un verdadero ejemplo para otros países, y elogió que, por voluntad política, pudiera protegerse a los más pequeños. Me pregunto si Ortiz está de acuerdo en que una persona, desde su más temprana edad, deba estar politizada para el resto de su vida; si está de acuerdo con las palabras del Comandante dictador cuando ordenó desde la tribuna que sus hijos y los hijos de todos los cubanos de la isla se educaran en el espíritu de Ché. ¿No se trata acaso de una ideología impuesta? ¿No es absurdo convertir las escuelas en talleres de fabricar hombres y mujeres como Ernesto Guevara, iguales en personalidad, carácter e ideas? Malograda su subversiva misión política Ché fue muerto en Bolivia. Fue, sin duda, un fracasado. Decir que nuestros niños deben seguir su ejemplo es cruel. El futuro de Cuba es impredecible. El que se sienta dueño de ese futuro se equivoca. El hecho de que jóvenes, casi niños, escapan diariamente del país en busca de libertad, demuestra que vivimos en un mundo de mentiras que se deshacen como hilos de telarañas. Indigna ver cómo en La Habana, precisamente en la Fortaleza de La Cabaña, donde el Ché ordenó fusilar a tantos cubanos en 1959, tuvo lugar recientemente el acto de ingreso de setenta niños de la escuela Héroes de Girón, a la Organización de Pioneros. En dicho acto, Liudmila Álamo, segunda secretaria de la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas, dijo: "En los 140 mil pioneros de nuevo ingreso tenemos el relevo y el compromiso para prepararlos en lo político y lo ideológico, para que sean ejemplo de revolucionarios, como pidió Fidel". A cientos de miles de padres que viven en la isla y que no son comunistas, les gustaría saber si el experto de la UNICEF tuvo en cuenta esta triste realidad cuando confeccionó su informe Progreso para la Infancia.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jan 5th 2011

Reminder: The Operation Pedro Pan Group, Inc (OPPGI) now has a Facebook account, where articles and photographs of the Operation, -past and current-, are constantly posted. Please, make sure to stop by and visit it at

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jan 5th 2011

Thank you for your warm welcome to the network. Unfortunately what I have written so far may still leave you feeling that only the antipasto has been served...tougher then I expected to process all those memories and emotions. Feliz ano nuevo

Message by Raoul Ramirez | Jan 4th 2011

Thank you José Antonio.

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Jan 4th 2011

Listen to our Pedro Pan brother Pepe Noriega be interviewed by Lynn Guarch, daughter of the late George Guarch, on National Public Radio. Happy New Year!

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Dec 31st 2010

Angel Cañete was recently interviewed about his Operation Pedro Pan experience by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel for an article that appeared in the December 09, 2010 issue. To read it, please, go to:

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Dec 12th 2010

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