Jose Manuel Echandi Ruiz

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Jose Manuel's Story

I grew up in Ampliacion Almendares in Havana, my home was located at 13 and 68. My brother and I left Cuba in April of 1961 at the ages of 9 and 7 years of age. I remember clearly the "interview" by the milicianos in La Pecera, where my brother would bump me with his elbow so that I would answer the miliciana's questions with short answers only. Not giving more information than what was necessary. As a 7 year old kid obviously I did not know better in providing family information during the interrogation that might compromise my parents in light of the repressions against persons that were not "integrated" to the revolutionary movement under way in Cuba.

Once we boarded the Pan American flight that was to take us to Miami the stewardess gave us a pin that we put on our shirts that identified us with a Catholic organization, one of the entities coordinating the arrivals of the Cuban children in Miami. A couple received us at the airport and drove us straight to Camp Kendall that day.

The first night in the large dormitory a pilloow fight broke out as soon as they turned off the lights, and a hard crash was heard, one of the kids had busted the closed door with a kick. I just huddled on my bunk and made it through the night. Life at Kendall was boaring, I remember one day a group of us kids got some shovels and a pick and started unburying a large rock in the ground, just to do something... Some days later another kid, my older brother and I decided to escape from Kendall. Back then the camp's surroundings were everglades. We walked out to a paved 2 lane road and ended up in a small strip mall out in the middle of nowhere, where we were picked up by the police who were searching for us, and returned us to the camp.

We also stayed for a couple of weeks(?) in an orphanage in Miami run by nuns, and we started to attend an elementary school in Miami which was called St. Joseph, I believe. There I heard and started to learn the pledge allegiance to the flag, etc. Shortly thereafter we were taken to the airport and sent to a foster home in Canton, Ohio, the Snyder family. We stayed with them for almost five years. My father was a politicla prisoner in Cuba, he was arrested shortly after my brother and I left, on the day of the invasion of Bay of Pigs.

We reunited after five years, in Venezuela, after my father had finished his prison term as a political prisinor of the castros, and my parents were able to leave Cuba through Spain.

That's all I have to say for now. But I would like to connect with any PPs that lived in Ampliacion Almendares or had experiences of Camp Kendall at that time. I would like to hear from them.

Viva Cuba Libre!!

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Hola hace un ano que no te escribo. Soy Rita casada con un Echandi de los que vinieron de Ciga. Como esta Elena?

Message by Rita Rodriguez- Pardinas | Oct 23rd 2010

Jose Manuel, If I was a betting men, I would tell Jose F Ayo Garcia, que era la "30", la "32" era la que iba por la Quinta Avenida. Yo soy de la 7 entre 44 y 46 y las dos nos servian para nuestra buenas maldades y travesias. Cuidate----JAM

Message by Justo Alejandro Martinez Monzon | Feb 26th 2010

Hello Jose Manuel, Mi Nombre es Jose Ayo, yo tambien vivi en la amplacion; 64 entr 15 y 17, te aquerdas que autobus pasaba por frente de tu casa? Yo estuve en Kedall from Jan. 62 to Sept.62 y tenia 15 anos entonces y esas escapadas que tu mencionastes las hice muchas veces. Saludos a Eloisa

Message by Jose F Ayo Garcia | Feb 26th 2010

Bienvenido a Pedro Pan!!

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 31st 2009

Hola José Manuel. No, no he regresado a Almendares. Mi corazón está dividido en dos. Una parte quiere regresar a la Patria donde nací, a caminar las calles por donde caminaba todos los días para ir al colegio, a sentarme un rato en el Parque de la Fuente, etc. La otra mitad de mi corazón no me deja regresar, ya que el gobierno y la gente que nos quitó a mi familia y a mí la felicidad, la tranquilidad, y la estabilidad conque vivíamos todavía está allí. Como tu dices, es confortante saber que una sola no ha pasado por esto. Este network del Herald nos está ayudando a compartir nuestras experiencias, y eso es confortante. Let's keep our memories alive! Cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Sep 19th 2009

Hola, mi nombre es Rita. Me estuvo curioso tu apellido. Es el primer Echandi cubano que veo. Una vez recibi un email curioso de una Echandi que estaba en Rusia..Elena Echandi. Yo soy Echandi de casada. MI esposo es Echandi de Puerto Rico y los abuelos de Ciga, Navarra, Espana. De donde son los Echandi de tu sepa? No he puesto mi historia aun, pero yo fui para Freeport, Illinois en el 1961. Yo tenia 8 anos.

Message by Rita Rodriguez- Pardinas | Sep 14th 2009

José Manuel, I also stayed at Kendall, but what I wanted to tell you is that we were neighbors in Ampliación de Almendares. I lived in Avenida 11 entre 68 y 70. Welcome to the network! Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Sep 3rd 2009

Welcome, Jose Manuel to our website. As you read through the stories, you will find many of Camp Kendall. You have just joined the site of a bunch of old kids reliving our childhood. We not only make contact with other PPs but we also joke around a lot. Hope you enjoy it!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 3rd 2009

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