"The trip to the Mariel port was accompanied by the constant fear that he would be arrested again. To make matters worse, our stay at the port lasted five days as we waited for a storm to pass. We finally launched, but we had been on the ocean for only a couple of hours when our ship began taking on water and eventually sank in the Gulf Of Mexico. We only survived because a large shrimp boat came to our rescue. We arrived on June 4, 1980 -- a trip that should take six to seven hours had taken us 19."
Chuck a friendly talking whale in there, and we'd watch the hell out of that movie.
You Have To Start Over With Nothing
Via Palm Beach Post
Change is just plain hard, especially for the young.
"For the first few months (maybe even a couple of years), I constantly yearned to return home," Jose Garcia said. "We went to live in New York City in an area where both drugs and crime were a daily occurrence. The fact that I couldn't speak English really impacted my school performance, and many times I questioned why we had left Cuba."
Benjamin Haas/Hemera/Getty Images
Oh ... right.
Given the circumstances, Jose Suarez's first U.S. accommodations could've been worse:
"[The refugee camp] was like a housing project. So it had a lot of three-bedroom units. And in one of those bedrooms there was a houseparent couple who looked after us, and in the other two were three triple-bunk beds to a bedroom. So the campus itself had over 700 children without parents. And so we had a school, hospital, dining room. I lived there for about three months before moving north."
Our source thought the refugee camp was as good as possible, under the circumstances. And if you're wondering why he chose not to just wait for his family's arrival at the all-boys camp:
"The boys' camp was not great. The boys were living in army tents; it's very hot in the Everglades. And it's not an ideal place. In fact, the CIA would often go in the camp and try to recruit the older boys to work for them and to do operations in Cuba. I didn't feel that was for me."
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Because the Cold War CIA always had everyone's best interests at heart, right?
Considering Jose lived in Cuba during the CIA's last disastrous "operation" involving a bunch of young Cuban men, it's not hard to see why he wasn't keen on signing up to hench for the U.S.
As for Vivian, she started out in a beautiful residence owned by well-to-do relatives, but soon had to move with her family to ... less luxurious accommodations:
"Once, the paint came off our ceiling and landed on me in bed in the middle of the night. Between the paint and the ceiling ... roaches. They landed on me and crawled all over me. I screamed for many nights after that, couldn't sleep, and to this day I'm deathly afraid of cockroaches. We also caught rats so big that sometimes the trap didn't kill them, and my father had to finish them off with a hammer. One time he told me to leave the room while he smashed in the head of a huge, very much alive, trapped but hissing, monster of a rat. I didn't leave the room. I should have left the room. It was one of the low points of my childhood."
Unless your dad is Thor, Mjolniring vermin to Valhalla shouldn't be a part of anyone's childhood.
For the old, the change was simply too much.
"What I remember the most about when we moved from Miami Beach is that my grandparents, who had stayed behind to try to get some money out of Cuba, arrived penniless just like we did," Vivian said. "My grandfather had a heart attack and died in the roach and rat house -- I think of a broken heart, since everything he had worked for his entire life was stolen."
Hey, the next time you bump into some hip young kid wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, give him a good smack upside the head with a history book for Vivian's grandpapi, would you?
You can learn more about Dr. Garcia's refugee experience and his first return to Cuba in 30 years in the award-winning documentary Voices From Mariel. Vivian became naturalized on her 18th birthday and considers herself blessed and grateful to be a citizen of the greatest country on Earth. Jason is an editor for Cracked. He has a Facebook page. Robert Evans is the editor of the personal experience section of Cracked, and he tweets.
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