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Nora Mirabal interview, August 30, 2019: transcript






Interviewed by Elsa Lopez and Barbara Tabach. Cuban refugee family by way of Spain and then to the US; arrived in Las Vegas in 1973 when Nora was 9 years old. Struggled in youth but rises up as embraces educaton. Currently is Assistant Director of Academic Partnership at CSN.

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Mirabal, Nora Interview, 2019 August 30. OH-03665. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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i AN INTERVIEW WITH NORA MIRABAL An Oral History Conducted by Elsa López Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2018 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Maribel Estrada Calderón, Elsa López, Nathalie Martinez, Rodrigo Vazquez Editors and Project Assistants: Laurents Bañuelos-Benitez, Maribel Estrada Calderón, Monserrath Hernández, Elsa López, Nathalie Martinez, Rodrigo Vazquez iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Latinx Voices of Southern Nevada. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE When asked how she identifies, Nora Mirabal affirms that she is a “Strong Cuban Woman.” Throughout her story, she shows evidence of this strength as well as the culture that bestowed it to her. Nora was born in 1964, in Coralillo, Cuba, in a little town near Havana. Her childhood was blissful; Nora knew little of the political instability her country was facing. When her brother was drafted into the Cuban army, her family began their journey to the United States, finally arriving in Las Vegas in 1973. East Las Vegas’s 28th Street, with it’s Latinx community, provided Nora’s family a sense of belonging. Surviving in this new country came with many sacrifices for Nora’s family. Nora remembers her mother and father taking on all the work they could get, and Nora speaks about joining the 28th street gangs for protection. v Upon graduation and under the mentorship of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, Nora became increasingly involved with her community. She worked as a student advocate at the Horizon Programs while collaborating with various other organizations. The Jumpstart Concurrent Enrollment Program was created by Nora to provide high school students with college credits to the College of Southern Nevada. Throughout her career, Nora has connected countless students, particularly Latinx students, and their families to affordable higher education. Nora details the many triumphs that came with being a single mother to two daughters. Family remains central to her story; Nora describes the traditions and Cuban dishes they love most. Her latest personal project is a multi-generational family photo collage. vi TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Nora Mirabal August 30, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Elsa López Preface………………………………………………………………………………………….iv-v Remembers her childhood in Corrillo, Costa Rica; presence of Russian army, Fidel in communist Cuba, grew up with large family, shared possessions with neighbors, describes wildlife........................................................................................................................................1-3 Describes parents; father was a taxi driver in Cuba, mother was a housekeeper in Cuba and then a babysitter in the U.S.; describes mother’s current home in Cuban community.......................4-6 Recounts family dynamics in Cuba, describes relationship with mother and siblings; describes Christmas parties and family get togethers; describes younger generations.............................7-10 Talks reasons for leaving Cuba; brother drafted into Cuban army, explains immigration process, remembers flight to Spain; describes living in the low-income high-rise................................11-13 Talks about Spain as a shortstop for Cuban migrants; had family in Spain, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas, conditions of 125 Cuban refugees who escaped on boat..............................................14-16 Discusses moving from Spain to Lake Tahoe; moved to North Las Vegas in ‘73; remembers schooling; ESL classes, bullied by white student population, moved to 28th street, initiated into their gang.................................................................................................................................16-18 Recounts father’s work; father was a porter at Las Vegas Hilton making $1.10 per hour, father drove an ice cream truck called El Cubanito...........................................................................18-19 Describes differences between Cuba, Spain, and U.S.; relationship with father; lists helpful organizations: Catholic Charities, St. Judes, the Latin Chamber of Commerce......................19-21 Describes Hispanic demographic on 28th street; remembers Roy Martin and Hanlon park, describes different ethnic gangs and being in a gang...............................................................21-23 Recounts work as a student advocate; Dr. Maria Chairez created West, East, and South Horizon Program (1988-89), describes students in the program, Opened Sunset H.S., collaborated with HELP Center, Latino Forum, Dr. Roqueni...............................................................................23-26 Talks experience in higher education; Associates from CSN, BA in Workforce Education from UNLV; describes Jumpstart Concurrent Enrollment Program, talks origin, teacher recruitment, and student population..............................................................................................................27-29 Explains difference between Jumpstart and AP, detailed students’ experiences, talks Jumpstart accessibility and costs..............................................................................................................29-32 vii Describes explaining Jumpstart to parents, talks curriculum, class sizes; describes Las Vegas and funding education....................................................................................................................32-36 Talks changes and issues in CCSD and education in Las Vegas; hopeful for Hispanic leadership with Dr. Zaragoza, Dr. Jara, and Dr. Marta Meana, describes CTE and CSN High School, and collaboration with Jumpstart Program......................................................................................36-39 Talks future goals of Jumpstart, details the day-to-day responsibilities...................................41-42 Discusses sacrifices and triumphs in being a single mother, describes daughters’ interests and academic achievements............................................................................................................43-46 Describes Cuban traditions including Christmas and Thanksgiving; where her family settled in Las Vegas, describes mother’s independence despite illiteracy...............................................47-50 Talks of free time, desire to return to Cuba with daughters, describes changes her family has seen in Cuba.....................................................................................................................................50-55 Describes evolution in Latino population; Cuban community in Las Vegas, working with Latin Chamber of Commerce in 1984-83, Otto Merida as President, 6th Street and Charleston, describes Gala parties and mentorship.....................................................................................54-59 Discusses favorite Cuban food, cooking traditional Cuban food in Las Vegas; thoughts on term “Latinx”, family photo collage, raising multi-ethnic daughters..............................................59-64 Appendix: family photos……………………………………………………………………..65-79 viii 1 Hello. The date is August 30th, 2019. My name is Elsa Lopéz, and I am here in the Oral History Research Center. I am joined today with… Barbara Tabach. Monserrath Hernandez. And Nora Mirabal. Hi, Nora Mirabal. Can you please tell us how you like to identify? Well, I am a strong Cuban woman. Nora, can you tell us about your childhood? I was born in Cuba in 1964 in a very small town by the capital of Cuba, Havana; my little town is called Coralillo, and very few people know about it. It’s a small town near the capital in Havana in Cuba. I was there until about seven years old, and during that time, I remember just playing. I remember being outdoors a lot. We lived in a very small, small home. I remember not having a bathroom, or a fridge or television. I remember only little things because I was young when I left. But there are beautiful memories of a lot of friends around and family always. We didn’t have a refrigerator. We didn’t have a TV. We had no floors in my home. I remember my neighbor had a refrigerator that my mom would keep our perishable food in, and she would keep it for us until we needed to use it. I remember just watching parachutes come down and asking my mom what they were. I thought they were birds. It’s such a vivid memory. I remember my mom telling me, “That’s the Russian Army.” It was just fascinating to look up and see these beautiful unknown objects…they looked like birds, but they also looked like umbrellas, just like a parachute would. They were fascinating, and I remember that very clearly. 2 I drank my milk out of a bottle until I was seven years old. I remember laying outside on the cold concrete and drinking my bottle with my two other siblings. We are six children; there were the first three, and twelve years later, it was the second three. If there’s a middle in six, I’m the oldest of the second three, the girl, and then there’s two younger brothers. Between my second brother is about three years younger, and the baby of the last three is about four years younger. I just remember we were naked all the time because Cuba is extremely hot and humid, and all of my pictures are all of us naked. It’s amazing to look back now because it’s so unheard of. If you take pictures of babies that are naked today, people think, oh my God, pedophile. Well, that’s not how I grew up. I grew up very open, and you wore your panties, and that was it. There was no shame. There was no shame. Honestly, we didn’t have much, and so whatever you had you saved for Sunday when you went to church or when there was a wedding; that’s when you dressed in your best outfits; or when there was a birthday, you dressed up. We walked around as kids should, I think, and just enjoyed life at its best without any restrictions. We had no television. We had no phones. Our interactions were always very pure, and it was vis-à-vis; it was person to person always, always, and you played all day long. Did you spend a lot of time playing—I’m assuming outside? The majority of my day consisted of playing outdoors until dusk. What was the wildlife like in Cuba? My grandfather lived and owned a farm if there’s any truth to that because in Cuba nobody owns anything; it’s owned by Fidel or now his brother, Raul. It’s communist, so you own nothing; even if you build it, even if you grow it, it’s not yours. But my grandfather had his farm, and we 3 didn’t live on the farm. We lived in the small city of Corralillo, and so in my little home, we had chickens behind our house. We had big toads. I remember my mother catching these toads that were all around in the back and cooking them. I remember her getting the chickens, and we had roosters and lots of chickens because that’s how you survive, right; you have the livestock. We had cages of all these chickens and roosters and rabbits. We had rabbits, lots of rabbits. I remember my mom catching these huge frogs that I was terrified of and killing them and getting the chickens and just wringing their necks by twisting them until the neck would break. I remember that vividly. It’s funny because these are things that I seldom speak about, so when you ask these questions, all these memories start popping up. But it was fascinating. You were always barefooted and half-naked. In fact, as a child, I stepped on a glass and have a huge scar from getting cut from stepping on the bottom of a bottle that the glass was sticking up. I remember that. We didn’t have dogs, but we had cats. I always had cats all my life until I grew up in adulthood and became a dog lover. I was born with asthma, so I don’t know why we had cats because I had asthma. I remember a small church by my house that we used to go to every Sunday. The church was so old, so old, but I remember the smell vividly. I remember that the church and the crevices at the top had a bunch of bats, big brown-colored bats. They never came down, but they would hang from the top of the church. It is fascinating now that I look back because I’ve never seen another bat again since we left Cuba. My mom and dad met very young. She got married when she was about eighteen. They’re gorgeous pictures. They married young and just started a family. I guess it’s the Latino 4 way, right? We’re a family of six children: it’s two girls and a boy, and then twelve years later it was a girl and two boys, so ironic. My older sisters were going to school. Cuba offers free education and free healthcare; even then, they did that. My sister was going to what we identify as college here already when we were in Cuba, and my oldest sister was married. She got married at the age of fifteen and started her family. Wow, this is kind of strange going back to all this. What did your parents do for work? My dad was a taxi driver in Cuba; that’s what he did as a form of income. My mother worked the fields with my grandfather growing up, but she never worked outside the home. She will be eighty-nine in November (2019), and she’s never worked outside. My mother is illiterate. Both my parents went through second grade. My father learned to survive on the streets. My mother became a housewife very early on, and that’s all she did for the rest of her life. She never went to school. She has never smoked a cigarette. She has never drank alcohol. She has never driven a car. She doesn’t have a driver’s license. She doesn’t know how to read in Spanish or English. Yet, she is as independent as any other woman could be. She lives alone—since early 1990, when she and my father divorced. She takes care of her own business by herself, and I don’t know how, but she does it. She remembers things. She has a memory of, like they say, an elephant, a fantastic, fantastic clear memory. I think that that’s how she survives because she doesn’t know how to read, she doesn’t know how to count. Kind of strange, right? As an educator, I look at that, and I think, wow! It’s hard for me to wrap around and understand how she navigates through life because everything I do is about reading and writing so I can remember it, but my mother doesn’t. She just remembers everything by remembering. 5 Over the years, when we came to the United States, she started babysitting children, young babies when the parents worked, and so she made some extra income by babysitting. I remember growing up in the United States, and there were always kids in my home. I was a teenager trying to be cute, and all and here are ten small kids running around the house screaming. It was always crazy at home, but that’s how she earned the extra income and helped out. How did they meet? I don’t know. I don’t know how they met. I’m assuming just by friendships and because in Cuba everybody knows everybody. In Cuba, and I would imagine in most Latino countries, family kind of marry into family because you have your family, you get to meet your family and their cousins and their cousins. In fact, my mother’s brother married my sister’s husband’s sister. This happens a lot, and it still does happen in Cuba. Cubans don’t like to be alone, obviously, and I don’t know why. They want that companionship, and they believe in the female-male foundation. It is seldom that you will see a woman single in Cuba, even today, and it’s unusual to see a man single. If they’re not married, they have several girlfriends. They’re lovers by heart. They like to drink, and they like to dance, and they like that company of a lot of people. BARBARA: Where does she live? My mother lives here in Vegas, yes, in a very small Catholic-founded and supported little-home. There are all these other Cuban older ladies. They live in their own little Cuban world. I’ve been in the United States for forty-five years, and my mother is still very much the Cuban woman that I can remember when we left Cuba. She’s never changed. Her convictions of being a Cuban woman are so strong that she refused to adapt to the American ways. What are some of those convictions? 6 Oh, my goodness. There are solid convictions that I think have been instilled in Cuban women and men forever and ever. You cook every day. My mother cooks Cuban food every day. She doesn’t go out to eat. She doesn’t believe in going out to eat. She thinks restaurants are full of bacteria and infection, so she does not eat unless she cooks it herself. Everything is made at home from fresh ingredients. She makes coffee two, three times a day. If you’ve ever drank Cuban coffee, you know that one small cup is enough, three is too many. She has her neighbors in and out the door all day long; they’re coming to get coffee; they bring her fruits; she gives them food. It’s this constant interaction of friendship. My mother’s door is constantly opening in and out. Her home can’t be more than nine hundred square feet; it’s tiny; it’s very tiny. Yet, her entire house’s walls are completely filled with pictures of all her family. She has thirty-seven grandchildren. She has about thirteen great-grandchildren. I’m not kidding; there is not a blank space in the wall that shows through because she has pictures of everyone, every Christmas card sent, every occasion celebrated from all her family. When you lived in Cuba, who were your neighbors? Were they family members or were they just—they were friends, obviously, but what was it like there? To me and to all of us, we’ve always been family. We didn’t say, mi amigo, my friend…To us, it’s always been, family. They’re giving, and they’re there with you, and they laugh with you, and they cry with you, and they’re in your house, or you’re in theirs all day long. There’s no monetary existence in Cuba, or at least that I can remember. You survive with the sheer love of your neighbors and family, and you share everything because nobody has anything. There is no competition of, oh, you have a television, how dare you. No. It’s, I have a television; come and join us. I remember sitting in my neighbor’s home, watching their black and white television with three channels. I can’t remember what they were, but I just remember watching this black 7 and white TV sitting on the floor with my neighbors and my brothers. It’s just a constant interaction. I don’t remember the women working outside the home; it was always the men, very similar to the traditional novels that you read. The men go out and make the money, and the women stay home, and they cook, and that’s something my mother always did. There was always dinner at whatever time my father got home. She was the housekeeper, and she was the disciplinarian until it got to a level where my dad had to step in. My dad took care of literally whatever was outside our home: the patio, the backyard, the animals, the money. Everything outside the home was my dad. Inside the home was my mother’s territory. She cleaned; she cooked; she bathed us. She took care of the home always, always, always. To today she still does that. We don’t live with her, but we go there, and she feeds us; she gives us goodies to take home with us; calls all of us every day, every day. It’s amazing every day. If she doesn’t get ahold of us or one of us, she worries. My mother is a very unique individual, and her world is very small because she’s never expanded her world or her views. Talking to her about the things that I experience as an educator and as a professional, my travels all over the world with my children—it’s hard for her to understand our travels and world views. What is it like? How do you have these conversations with her? I tend to fall more into listening to her and listening to what her day is like as opposed to me explaining what my journey is like because she doesn’t understand them. In fact, anytime we travel out, she worries to no end and can’t wait to see us. The other day we were talking, and I said, “Mom, when I retire, I think I’m going to move back to Spain.” She’s like, “Oh my God, I’m going to have a heart attack.” I’m like, “You don’t have to.” But once I hang up and I step 8 back, I start understanding why she feels that way because her world is her children, and it doesn’t go beyond that for her. I’m going to get teary-eyed. Can you talk to us about the relationship with your siblings, especially with that age gap there? Yes. My oldest sister stayed in Cuba because in Cuba, if you’re married, then you separate from your biological family, and you become a family of your own. So all the regulations and policies now apply only to you as your new family and not the family that you were born into. When we left in 1971, she stayed behind with her husband and her two children, and then it was the five of us and mom and dad. My older sister and I don’t really see eye to eye; we have a very different view of the world. My other sister and I are really close because we traveled and left Cuba together. Then my oldest brother, I don’t talk to him very much. The separation between us is because of the age gap. He got married, and his world changed, and he moved out of Vegas. Then, my other two brothers, one has passed away, my little baby brother, and then my other brother I’m close to, and I try to stay really close with him because I know that it’s only both of us now at this point. Our Christmas parties are huge. We have about a hundred people in our family by now. We have nieces and nephews, and they have their families. Everybody lives their own life. Yes, we’re still the same as I think we were in Cuba only now we have our own lives. We don’t talk every day, but when we do see each other, it’s lovely. Tell us about the Christmas parties and the family get-togethers. We have a huge Christmas party every year with our cooked pig. We cook our pig in the ground; that’s a tradition that is always followed—lots of food, lots of drinking, lots of dancing—lots of dancing. Then there are all these other generations that have come after us. We have our little 9 nieces and nephews, and they’re growing up based on their own family upbringing. Everybody has their own family dynamics. It’s funny because I look at each of these little guys and girls that have come so many years after us, and there are such resemblances not only in the way they look but the things they do. That’s when I sit back and say, “My God, life is amazing,” because your genes just never stop multiplying. Their behaviors and mannerisms and the way they look…I can see one in one of my nephews, my sister’s son, his kids look just like my sister when my sister was a child. You have the photos to prove it, too. Yes. This is what I was going to bring. I have all these beautiful pictures from Cuba when we were little, and when my mom and dad got married, a beautiful picture. So beautiful. I just absolutely adore it. In looking at the pictures, I’ve noticed how much my sister’s grandchildren look like her when she was young. It’s hard to see that until you look at these pictures that are thirty, forty years old, and you realize how strong a human being’s genes are that they continue to duplicate and how much they look like their grandma. That’s the same with my other sister and my brother’s children; they look like their grandma and grandpa. It’s just amazing. It’s lovely to have a huge family, and I would find it really sad to be an only child, I think because with our family there is drama and there’s laughter, and there’s tears, lots of drama and more drama. Cubans are a bunch of drama. But it’s lovely. That’s what makes for a good life. That’s what makes you get up in the morning. It’s an interesting dynamic for sure. I’m curious: you said that the nieces and the nephews look like their grandparents. You said that they have similar mannerisms, too. What are some of those mannerisms like? My oldest sister, because she’s the oldest, she’s the most Cuban because she stayed in Cuba longer and the Cuban traditions are in her. The last three left very young; I was seven, my other 10 brother was five, and then my baby brother was about two or three. We’re more Americanized than my sister is. She’s loud, like most Cubans. I see this loud behavior in her son’s children; they’re loud and dramatic; my children are not. My children are more quiet. They’re just different. Not only do they look like my sister physically, but their mannerisms…Again, my sister has raised them, grandma. Like my mother, she has been very close to her children. She takes care of them when the parents are working. She takes them to school. Of course, they’re going to become her. My goodness, who else would they become? Can you talk to us about the reasons you left Cuba? Sure. I was seven when we left. I didn’t know it then, but my parents told me that the reason we left was because my brother, who at the time was fifteen, was being drafted into the Cuban Army, a communist regime. My family has never been communist. My dad didn’t want him to become part of the communist army. It was a few years after the Bay of Pigs, and so my aunt lived in Lake Tahoe. At that time, Fidel allowed anyone that didn’t have a criminal history or had been in prison in Cuba to leave Cuba, providing that they had a supporter, someone that could endorse them in America. My aunt and my uncle lived in Lake Tahoe, and they endorsed us, and we were able to leave legally with a green card. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you’ve got to come and become a U.S. citizen right away. Green cards were fine; you didn’t have to do anything for immigration. You were allowed to come in, especially from Cuba. We were seeking asylum. We left literally because my brother was going into the army, and my father, a very strong character man, didn’t want him to be part of the communist organization. My aunt, my mother’s sister, brought us to the United States. But we didn’t come to the United States right away. It took us about three years. We went through Spain and lived in beautiful Spain for about two and a half years. 11 Tell us about that. Oh, fantastic trip. I remember more of Spain than I remember of Cuba for obvious reasons; I was young. I can tell you about my flight from Cuba to Spain—and I remember this very well. In Cuba, we don’t have any issues with children drinking their milk out of a bottle until twelve. If you have a binkie, it’s not a big deal. We don’t see that as a bad way to raise your child. We see it as “it’s nurturing, and if it calms you down, that’s all we want” kind of thing; it’s okay as long as the child is comfortable and they’re growing okay by all other means, it’s okay. Needless to say, I had a bottle at the age of seven and also a binkie. I remember taking the flight from Cuba to Spain. If I remember correctly, it’s a twenty-one-hour fight. It’s very, very long. I remember looking for my binkie, and my mother, for whatever reason, felt that it was time for me to let of the binkie. She told me on the flight to Spain, “Oh, I threw it out of the plane’s window.” Of course, at seven I’m like, how can you do that? Today I look back, and…every time I get on a plane, I literally find myself looking to open the plane’s window. It’s a dumb idea. I know there’s no way. Even back then, there was no way. She said, “I’m sorry, I dropped it out of the window. You can’t have it anymore.” I remember that vividly, just like I remember the parachutes coming down from the sky in Cuba. These are little memories that I have never let go. That emotional separation with my binkie was a huge, huge thing for me. We get to Spain, and I remember Spain being so beautiful and the people very warm, very welcoming. Of course, they spoke Spanish, so there wasn’t a huge transition for us, and it wasn’t a huge transition for my mom and dad in the language barrier area. I remember getting to Spain. I remember the mountains and the sheep being herded through the pastures. I remember 12 living in a high-rise in Spain, in Madrid’s very poor side of town. Obviously, we came with nothing. I think there was one suitcase between all five of us. Real quickly, what did you decide to bring with you in that small suitcase? Not my binkie. (laughter) Just a few pieces of clothes because I remember one suitcase for all five of us. In Spain, there’s a lot of nonprofit organizations, and there’s a lot of help for people that come into Spain. I don’t know if that’s still the case. We were welcomed. We were given clothes. I remember going to Catholic churches on Sunday, and the floors would be filled with clothes and shoes. You went over there, and you picked whatever you wanted. It was like this fabulous feeling. You come from Cuba with nothing, and then in Spain, I felt like we were so rich, and in reality, we weren’t. You go into the Catholic churches, and there’s just clothes, donated clothes, just like there would be here. I remember just enjoying picking what I liked. I was seven, just beginning to understand. I remember saying to myself, I like this color, and I like this color, and I like how this fits on me. Going and just picking up clothes, and there was no restriction on how much you could take, I remember that. I remember going to school and PE. Their PE classes were very rigorous; it’s almost like gymnastic classes. I remember us having to go up the ropes in PE, things that they don’t do here. They’re very physical in Spain when it comes to physical education classes. I remember living in this high-rise building in Madrid, and gypsies would come to dance on Sunday morning. We threw monedas (coins) at them, and that’s how they made their money as well as by stealing. They steal; they’re gypsies. But it’s amazing to see these people dancing with all these beautiful outfits. I don’t know if you’ve danced Zumba and wore those little things you put around that have little coins and make noise. They would use these. We threw coins 13 from our high-rise apartment. This our Saturday and Sunday entertainment; we would open our balcony, and I stood there and threw monedas, whatever you could afford. It’s amazing, right? I remember that our parents would allow us to go down the stairs and go get our fresh bread every morning, like Europe. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Europe. All Europeans have kiosks everywhere outside for everything: flowers, bread. Whatever it is, it’s always outside in small business-owned corners. That’s how they survived. I remember smelling the churros freshly made every morning and the bread. That’s vivid in my mind. Running down with a few monedas in my pocket to buy bread and churros, then returning home to eat. This was our breakfast. I have fond, happy memories from Spain. When I arrived in Spain, I had a round face. I’ve never been a skinny girl. I was chunky when I was seven. The Spaniards loved me because they thought, oh my God, you look just like an Española; you look just like us. They took me in. The older ladies that lived in the same complex would invite me in for milk, cookies, or churros constantly. Spain was beautiful for us. BARBARA: Were you considered a refugee going to Spain? How was that destination chosen The U.S. chose that destination; I guess, because there was a process between Cuba and the United States. In between, if you didn’t have the proper paperwork, you had to stop somewhere. For whatever reason, and I don’t know why, we did