Maria de los Angeles Hernandez Valero
Maria de los Angeles's Story
I came to the US with my younger brother Nicolas Pablo who was 10 years of age at the time, and I was 12. As soon as we arrived in Miami, we were taken to The Florida City Camp where we stayed until April 1962, when we were sent to live in a foster home with an American family, the Goodwin's in Lake Charles, LA. Pat and Ernest Goodwin had 2 children of their own, Marie Therese and Michael. This wonderful American family were very good to us. We were treated as part of the family. Pat and Ernest asked us to call them Tío and Tía, a very subtle way of letting us know that they could never take the place of our parents. On my 13th birthday, 4 months after we arrived from Cuba, they took us to Disneyland and Hollywood, it was a dream come through for me since I had always wanted to visit these two places. We lived with the Goodwin's for one year, when we were reunited with our parents and our little sister Teresita Victoria in New Orleans, LA. We will always remember this kind and loving American family, and we will always keep them in our prayers. My family settled in New Orleans, and little by little many of our relatives came from Cuba to live with us (grandparents, paternal aunts and uncle).
I have a story that I want to share with all of you. On August 8, 1963, my dad, Celso M. Hernández Machado, went to Canal St. in downtown New Orleans, looking for a job. When he got off the bus, he encountered an American man with a sign that read "Fair Play for Cuba", this man was no other than Lee Harvey Oswald, who 3 months later in Nov. 1963 was accused of killing JFK (John F. Kennedy). As it was expected, my dad became very upset because Oswald was backing-up the Castro regime, imagine a newly arrived Cuban refugee meeting a pro-Castro activist. Since my dad did not speak English, thus was not able to communicate with Oswald he decided to go to a friend's store located in Decatur St. two block away to ask him if he could go with him to find Oswald and translate what he wanted to tell him. Immediately, my dad's friend Carlitos Bringuier and another Cuban named Miguel Cruz, who was at the store, decided to go with my dad to Canal St. to find Oswald. Oswald had moved from the location where my dad had seen him, thus, the three of them got on the Canal St. streetcar to see if they could locate Oswald. Once they found him, they got off the streetcar and my dad did not even wait for Carlitos to talk to Oswald, he immediately hit Oswald and took the sign away from him. They both struggle and within a few minutes the police came. Oswald, Carlitos, Miguel and my dad were taken to jail for disturbing the peace. To make the study short, the 4 of them spent the night in jail. The following day, the judge found Oswald guilty, and charged him with a $25 fine for disturbing the peace. Now, when I look back at the incident, it was funny that Oswald was the one who was fined for disturbing the peace, and not my dad since my dad was the one who started the altercation. My dad was the most anti- communist person I have ever met, and a very passionate Cuban patriot, who wanted for his country to be free from the Castro dictatorship. That was the reason why he became so upset and furious when he saw that Oswald was trying to defend such a bloody and undemocratic regime. After the JFK assassination, many stories have been written about the encounter my dad had with Oswald, many of these stories are not factual. Even the portrayal of the encounter of the Cubans with Oswald in the JFK movie by Oliver Stone was erroneously portrayed. Of course, Stone would have never sided with the struggle of the Cuban nation, since he is an admirer of Castro and Chávez, that is the reason why he portrayed the Cuban exiles in his movies as mere low class criminals. I have made a promise to myself that one day I will write the true story of what really happened when my dad met Oswald in Canal St. three months before the JFK assassination.
Now, let me briefly tell you what has become of me. In 1974 I moved from New Orleans to Miami, where I worked at the Cuban Refugee Center until Nov. 1979 when I moved to Boston. In 1981, I was awarded a scholarship at The New School for Social Research in NYC, where I lived until 1986, when I decided to relocate to Houston, Texas where I obtained a job teaching at the University of Houston - Clear Lake. In 1995, I received a doctoral degree in Public Health from The University of Texas, and after graduation was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship by the National Cancer Institute at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. During the last 15 years, I have been a faculty member at this institution, conducting health disparities and cancer prevention research in the area of environmental health and childhood obesity among children of Mexican origin. In 2009, I was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to conduct cancer prevention research at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México in Toluca, where I am currently an invited professor. When I retire, which should be very soon, I plan to spend the rest of my life writing, and making sure that our struggle, that is the struggle of the Cuban people is truly told.