Juan Luis Puig Rodriguez
Juan Luis's Story
I have blocked out a few days/months of my childhood (my childhood ended July 23. 1961), specifically our stay at "Kendall" (Kendall Hospital was a county hospital and an institution for wayward & exceptional children.) Reading some of the anecdotes from other kids (now adults) has brought back some really painful memories.
I remember my anguish after spending long hours in the “pecera” looking at our parents through the glass partition before boarding the plane. I clearly remember my sister, Haydee, and I making a pledge not to fight and argue with each other anymore, since we only had each other for support; while sitting on the plane waiting to take off.
The oppressive July & August 1961 heat and of course no A/C, the two white buildings facing each other, one for the girls and one for the boys. In between the buildings sandy dirt grounds with a total absence of grass, dirt that would crawl into your shoes & socks, maybe that is the reason for my having beautiful lawns in my homes as an adult.
I truly do not remember where I slept (I know it was a bunk bed),where I went to bathroom or showered (maybe I did not shower, very possible). I do remember that we only had 2 changes of clothing since our luggage took 3 months to arrive from the "wonderful island paradise". Who washed my clothing? Did we wash our own clothing? Did I wear the same outfit for several days?, I assume I did, perhaps that explains why I must have multiple sets ( meaning at least 12 to 15 sets) of clean underwear, socks, etc. at all times. Why do I go to the cleaners twice a week? I must have a plentiful supply of dry cleaned or laundered clothing at all times.
Remember the group crying and sobbing during the night, sort of like a scene out of a Dicken's orphanage. Also remember a glaring TV set (there were only 3 TV channels back then, so no multiple cable choices), with game shows on. Of course did not understand a word of what was being said. How many days was I there before moving to Camp Matecumbe? A mystery to me!!
Camp Matecumbe?? Lots of undesirable critters, plenty of snakes (corals, rattlers big & pygmies) big silver dollar size spiders. You always had to check your bunk for uninvited guests, at night during your sleep "things' would fall on you from the rafters or crawl in bed with you.
We had an Olympic size pool, that was the nice part, however we only had open air cold water showers next to the pool (the usual "shower before you enter the pool" type), you had to shower with your bathing suit on, and when Fall & Winter came, it was not pleasant!!
The food at Matecumbe was an improvement, I guess that after throwing away loads of "liver steaks" they learned their lesson and discontinued the usual prison fare. I survived on bologna & cheese white bread sandwiches with mustard and "early potato chips", quite different from today's chips. To this date, I always put potato chips in my sandwiches. I also ate lots of oatmeal raisin cookie bars, these were the best and since oatmeal raisin cookies were not a Cuban staple, most of the boys would not touch them, there were plenty of them left uneaten and I made sure that they were not wasted.