Freedom Flight Memories

Roxana Valladares Hart

I was only 9 years old, but remember that day as if it was today. We leftvery early one unusually cool morning on January 29, 1962. It was dark andwe were supposed to meet with my father, Capitan Eduardo Valladares at theairport. My mother (Roxana), brother (Angel Eduardo) and I piled along withmy grandparents in a car. I don't remember much of the ride; but I can'tseem to erase the image of all of my grandparents staring and crying frominside a glassed room. We three sat essentially motion less in a largewaiting room as we waited for my father to join us. Later I was told thatthe glassed room was called "la pesera" where loved ones and relatives wereallowed to say goodbye to those fleeing the island. Now it was time to boardand all of our belongings were being rifled through by men dressed in greenoutfits. When they finished "looking" through the entire "luggage" I wastold I could only bring my little doll not my big baby doll. My motherbecame upset that her neatly packed duffle bags were now just piles ofclothing stuffed into each of the "gusanos." The luggage was called thatbecause those people fleeing their homeland during this period of time wereconsidered to be cowardly "gusanos." The "gusanos" also had a weightrestriction and if it went over you were not allowed to bring it with you atall. Soon as we began our walk up the stairs of the plane, my father joinedus and for the first time since we had left our home; my mother seemed calm.Once the plane took off and we were in the air the entire plane erupted inthe Cuban National Anthem. Some sang through sobs, others just cried andstill some simply sat numb. I sat with my mother and my brother sat acrossthe aisle with my father. Who I thought seemed to be singing (off key) theloudest. My mother encouraged us to sing, because she said it would be thelast time we would sing our anthem over Cuban skies.

Roxana Valladares Hart

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