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Author, immigration attorney, mother of radio host dies

Rogelia Castellón in a family photo.
Rogelia Castellón in a family photo. Courtesy

Rogelia Castellón, mother of prominent Spanish-language radio host and commentator Ninoska Pérez Castellón, died Thursday and will be buried Saturday after a wake that was to begin Friday night. She was 89.

“I am very proud to have had a mother like her,” said Pérez Castellón in a telephone interview about her mother, who in exile went to work first with the now-defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and then became an immigration attorney who helped many Cuban exiles obtain residency.

Rogelia Castel was the wife of Col. Francisco Pérez, who left Cuba the same early morning that Fulgencio Batista fled the island when the Fidel Castro revolution triumphed on Jan. 1, 1959. Rogelia Castellón arrived in Miami months later along with other family members who had stayed behind on the island. Among these was Ninoska, then 8 years old, and her sister Rogelia.

The wake for Rogelia Castellon was to begin Friday at the Maspons Funeral Home at 3500 SW Eighth St. in Miami. On Saturday at 1 p.m. there will be a Mass at St. Raymond, 3475 SW 17th St., followed by burial at Graceland Memorial Park North, 4420 SW Eighth St.

Rogelia Castellón was from Camaguey, Cuba. As the wife of Francisco Pérez, a close Batista supporter, she faced many pressures after Castro seized power. A brother was arrested by revolutionary forces along with other family members.

Finally, months after her husband fled Cuba, Rogelia took the rest of her family to Miami.

“I used to joke with her that she was a true Marine because she wouldn’t leave anyone behind,” Ninoska recalled.

In exile, the couple and the family reunited. But the impact of the revolution in Cuba continued to roil the family.

When a CIA-trained Cuban exile force, Assault Brigade 2506, invaded Cuba in 1961, in a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, two young soldiers were men Rogelia had raised as her children, Humberto Pérez and Francisco Pérez. They were captured along with hundreds of other brigade members and later exchanged for food, medicine and equipment for Cuba.

Rogelia’s husband, Francisco Perez, died in exile in 1976. One of the two youths captured in the invasion, Francisco Pérez, died two years ago.

Initially, Rogelia worked in a food shop, but then set herself more ambitious goals. She learned English and became an expert on immigration, eventually going to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and then becoming a lawyer, Ninoska recalled.

As an immigration lawyer, Ninoska said, her mother helped many Cuban exiles get papers in the 1980s — a time when immigration authorities deliberately delayed decisions in an attempt to make the process difficult for the Cuban migrants.

She also wrote two books, one on Cuban dissident leader Martha Beatriz Roque in 2005 and the second in 2010, a novel about a Cuban during the Spanish civil war, Ninoska recalled.

Besides Ninoska, other survivors include another daughter, Rogelia Pérez; niece Madelaine Rodríguez; son Humberto Pérez; two granddaughters, Sacha Linares and Stefani Mouwad; three great grandchildren, Natalia Reyes, Lucia Reyes and Dylan El/Masry.

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