Ileana Smith (IS) and Gustavo Mestas (GM)
IS: Papi, tell me how you came to the decision to escape from Cuba.
GM: That is a very complex problem, ok. When Fidel started this revolution, even the churches were ringing the bells. Everybody was so happy, but after a while you saw it was not so good. You said, Jesus, this is not good for my children. So one day my friend that used to have a boat told me that he wanted to leave. And I said I wanted to leave, too.
IS: I remember I was looking out the port hole. I saw the Russian coast guard with the big guns.
GM: Yea. We saw the search light of the patrol boat. And my friend he stopped the motor, he stopped everything. He said, ”Quiet everything. No one talk. No nothing.” Because the patrol boat is the one that was killing people. The next day, we reached the coast of Florida close to noontime. It was tough. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to practice as a doctor here or not. You have to take some classes, you have to pass an examination and we didn’t have any money. So I pick up tomatoes in the fields and I work cleaning in a motel. And then at night I have to go to medical school. And I have to walk fifty-seven blocks because I didn’t have money for the bus.
IS: But even when you didn’t have money for the bus, you bought me a Barbie doll.
GM: Oh, because in Cuba, you had a room full of dolls.
IS: Yea. GM: And your mother was trying to sell them before leaving. And you were crying, ”What is happening?” And I said, ”Soon I’ll buy you another doll.”
IS: I remember that.
GM: I think that the people here– the way they accepted me and the way they treated me, I pay them with hard work. I work for thirty years as a general practice. I never miss a day. I had a fractured ankle and went with crutches every day to my office to work. Even today after more than eight years retired, I go to the groceries and I see ladies and they kiss me. I think they love me.
IS: I know they love you. They always tell me. Well I want you to know that you have had the greatest influence in my life of anyone. And I love you and I respect you and admire you.
GM: Thank you, I love you, too.