This post is the last of the three part story titled “Cuba, Before and After…” Please share this story so that it will not be re-written in a different place at a future time. If we do nothing electorally to stop the totalitarian actions of Obama’s America, one of our children could, like Mr. De Cardenas, be writing a similar story from a freer country in the year 2062.
Thank you Ralph for allowing us to share your story. Your story has motivated me even more to protect our Church and America. God bless you and get well.
O Holy Spirit, strengthen us to defend all that is holy.
“Cuba, Before and After…” Part Three of Three
By Rafael De Cardenas
Rafael (Ralph) H. De Cardenas II comes from a long line of prominent families in Cuba. His paternal great-grandfather was a Major General of the War of Independence against Spain and Justice of the Supreme Court. Dr. Humberto De Cardenas, his paternal grandfather served as Attorney General of Havana. Ralph came to the United States through “Operation Peter Pan” where thousands of Cuban parents saved their children from communism.
Upon my arrival to the United States on December 4, 1961 from Cuba, I was immediately taken to the Customs Department in Miami International Airport. My arrival was anticipated and a government official was waiting to talk to me on the telephone. A few days before leaving Cuba, I was approached by a family friend while paying a visit to my Aunt Bertha’s home. This friend was an American citizen who had been a former Ziegfeld Follies Girl then residing in Cuba. I cannot comment on her affiliation with our government or any of its agencies because the matter was not discussed. She was aware of my work with the underground and my willingness to do anything to undermine the communist regime currently permeating Cuba. Because of this, she gave me certain information to memorize together with a telephone number to call upon arriving in Miami. I was to ask for “Uncle George.” This was the telephone call that was waiting for me. The man on the phone wanted to know where I would be going from the airport and we agreed to meet later that afternoon.
Prior to my sister and I leaving Cuba, arrangements had been made for us to live with my aunt on my mother’s side. It was supposed to be a temporary situation until my parents would be able to get out of Cuba. My aunt and her children were living alone in Miami since her husband had been imprisoned for his participation in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. My aunts husband was finally released a year or so later when the United States agreed to an exchange of prisoners for tractors, or any kind of agriculture equipment and especially medicines. As we were driving to my aunt’s house she asked if there was anything that I would like to do along the way. My immediate reply was “Yes” and we made one stop for a good old-fashioned hamburger with everything on it, with french fries and a vanilla malt!
Within an hour of arriving at my new-found home “Uncle George” was knocking on the door. He identified himself as a FBI agent and presented his credentials. He asked that I ride with him in his car. While we were driving I relayed information to him about ammunition depots and missile sites located in Cuba. I gave him names of Cuban citizens who would be accepted by the rest of the populace to run the country if the current regime were overthrown and communism eradicated. After we drove for a length of time (about 45 minutes) and I had told him everything that he wanted to know, I returned to my aunts house to begin a new life in the United States. I never heard anymore from “Uncle George.”
For the next three days, my sister and I had to go to the offices of The Cuban Refugee Center. We were given medical tests and began processing all the paper work required by the United States Immigration Department for us to remain in the country on a refugee status. I really got off lucky because some of the men on our flight were taken to Opa-locka Air Base for what was called debriefing. They were interrogated and their responses written down and analyzed so a determination might be made as to whether or not the individual was a spy. I think that in my case “Uncle George” had something to do with my being processed with very little effort on my part.
Regardless of my previous educational background, my sister and I had to enroll in school. Prior to the upheaval in Cuba, I had earned a Bachelor of Science and Arts Degree from the Instituto De Camaguey and was attending the University of Havana Law School. I was required in High School to take four years of math, two years of logic, psychology, world history, philosophy, chemistry, French, physics and four years of English. I even had an English tutor at a very early age at my fathers insistence. My father was educated in the United States. He graduated from High School in Ashville, N.C. and then went on to attend Louisiana State University. As a consequence he placed heavy emphasis on my learning and speaking the English language. Regardless of my prior studies I had to enroll in school in the United’ States and take English along with a,, course; in American Government.
There was a sharp contrast between my former trips to the United States and what was taking place now. My previous visits were full of good times and fun-filled, carefree days. Aside from trips to Miami with my grandfather, I, along with two cousins, attended The Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. We also spent a summer at Camp Susquehanna in New Milford, Pa. One of the counselors was paid by my father and uncle to personally chaperon us around New York while seeing the sights. I now had to return to High School to validate my High School Diploma! The rest of my time was spent cleaning peoples kitchens, attics, bathes and entire houses for pay. As you can see, my life was changed dramatically and irrevocably in a very short amount of time.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was once again reunited with my parents on April 4, 1962 at Miami International Airport. I cannot begin to convey the feelings that welled up inside of me when I was finally able to embrace them once more.
Upon my fathers arrival in this country, he immediately found a job working as a truck driver for an oil company located in the Everglades. We were both determined not to take any handouts and to work at whatever we had to do to support our family.
The following year we were presented with an opportunity to come to Oklahoma. My father had been ready for a long time for us to leave Miami. He relayed to me recently that I and my friends were constantly devising ways to get back into Cuba and once again resume the fight against Fidel Castro. He feared that the likelihood of my accomplishing that would be greater if we remained in Florida. A close friend of our family, Dr. Socarraz was living in Oklahoma City. He talked to Oklahoma City Mayor James H. Norick ( and his wife Madalyn about us and they wanted to set up a meeting. They flew to Miami and met our family. A week went by and we had a telephone call letting us know that they had arranged for B. G. Wilkes and his wife Jean to sponsor us. We arrived in Oklahoma City on a weekend in January of 1963. We were met at the airport by Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Norick. I will never forget the dreary rainy afternoon when our plane landed. While driving to the city I noticed that there was even ice on the curb and after driving a few more blocks the sun was shining. This was my introduction to the expression “if you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma just wait for a few minutes and it will change.” An apartment was waiting for us to move into, the furnishings had been gathered from among Mr. Wilkes friends, and the cabinet was full of groceries. The following Monday my father and I started to work for the B. G. Wilkes Company. My father worked full-time and I could only work part time since I had to attend school.
On November 21, 1969 I was presented with my Certification of Naturalization. The Honorable James H. Norick presented me with a certificate making me the Honorary Mayor of Oklahoma City and Governor Dewey Bartlett made me an Honorary Okie. (A few years later while making a speech I was presented with an Okie From Muskogee certificate). Mr. Norick made the remark to me that he envied me because I had to choose to become a citizen of this country and that I should be a better citizen because it was my choosing.
In my mind there could not have been any other choice. I was proud to receive these documents but I took a special pride in receiving my Certificate of Naturalization since it served to validate what I already felt in my heart. America was truly my country and my home and I was indeed one of her citizens. Despite the hardship of starting my life over with nothing to my name, i was grateful to be living in a country free of tyranny and oppression. I no longer had to fear that a troop of militia would come into my home and steal me or my family away in the middle of the night to confinement or a firing squad. I could walk about free and without fear of being shot or arrested. I could talk openly without watching what I had to say and I did not have to meet my friends in secret or watch them be killed. After everything was taken from my family and myself and everything that I had owned in this world was lost to me forever, the things that are really important to life were once again mine. I have my freedom, my happiness and the chance to maintain them based upon my own resources.
As for the future of Cuba, I can only speculate. I, along with many others, believe that communism will be forced out but not before an insurrection and a lot of blood will be spilled. Fidel is egomaniacal, and Regardless of the suffering the people will have to endure, he is capable of doing anything and everything to preserve his way of life and his regime. He is another Saddam Hussein. Brother Raul is the “henchman of the revolution his nickname is “THE BUTCHER.”
This dictator is just 90 miles from our shores with his Army and missiles still intact.
I have hope of someday returning to Cuba to visit my friends I would like to see the place of my birth, regain the happy memories of my childhood. Most of all I would like to be able to place flowers in my grandparents mausoleum and once again gaze upon the most beautiful beach in the world, Varadero Beach. If I should ever get to do this I will be looking at a free Cuba through the eyes of a free citizen of the United States of America. That honor and privilege I will never surrender.
As an American, and an Oklahoman, I truly love our country. I would gladly fight to defend her honor, her beliefs and most of all her freedoms. It hurts me every bit as much as it did in Cuba to see our citizens held prisoner, put through unspeakable horrors and in some instances even killed. It hurts to see our planes shot down, our standards ridiculed and our flags torn down and burned. It hurts even more when our flag is desecrated in our own country. Our eyes have been opened to the fact that in one blink, an individual’s life of tranquility can be changed to one of horror.
Because we had American Soldiers willing to die to defend all that America stands for and to fight against tyranny and an oppressive regime, I feel that we are on the brink of a major change in this country. Any pacifism on our part has been eradicated. We have become intent on making ourselves aware of atrocities in other countries and perhaps recounting what happened in Cuba and how its ultimate demise could have been altered. Tyranny on any level should not be tolerated.
As Americans we should be willing to stop tyrants in their tracks. Looking the other way does not work, it will only provide the needed time for things to worsen. “Speak softly but carry a big stick” Theodore Roosevelt. We can be benevolent to a country in need of help but we must not reward a country that brutalizes its citizens or those of another country. We must be aware of what is happening around the world and analyze it against what has happened in the past. The future of our great nation is in our hands and the hands of generations to come. As Americans we have an obligation and a mandate to preserve this great nation, its heritage, its way of life, its future and its youth. If we ignore any of these our country will suffer Anything worth possessing must be preserved and worked at. It can never just take care of itself and without watchful maintenance it will erode and fade away. Any organization is only as great as the people that embody it. Nothing stands static.
My life, my patriotism and my personal convictions have been enhanced since becoming an American…