Freedom Flight Memories

Marilyn Garrido Watts

Thank you for taking the time to compile this wonderful testament of our Cuban heritage. My story begins with the mandatory separation of our family when my parents filed the papers to leave. It took 3 years! As soon as these papers were submitted, we (like many others) were branded "Gusanos" (worms).. meaning anti-revolution and deserters of La Patria. My father was sent to an "agricultural camp" where he cut sugar cane for 12 hours a day with little to eat. My teen sister to a military camp and my Mother and I to basically starve.

Our departure was unexpected and we were told to only bring one suitcase for the 4 of us. Hence no pictures of any of us from Cuba. At the seaport we were inoculated and I was harshly stabbed with the needle 3 times to show my parents how they felt about a “little gusana”. I was 4 years old. We remained at the port for 3 days/2 nights and were given water, crackers and a bottle of milk. My most vivid memory is of the mosquitos!!!

When we boarded the plane on 7/16/1969.. a flight that would have normally taken 30 minutes, lasted 2 hours. I was later told the reason. Apparently, a group of illegal immigrants had stolen a boat and our pilot kept circling above them so the patrols could zero in on them for an arrest. Back on the plane, it was a living hell. People were violently ill. At the this time, I had signs of rejecting the inoculation and had open soars all over my body and a high fever. When my Mother told the story, she said she wasn’t sure I'd make it to Miami.

When we finally landed all our Tios & Tias, and Primos were there waiting for us and they'd brought me a beautiful doll. I also got to taste ice cream and cake for the first time.

Mrs. Marilyn Garrido Watts