In our previous story we described the life of a native Cuban, Gorge*. He is 28 years old and only experienced what it is like to live under a communist dictatorship. Recognizing that he had limited opportunities living under the oppressive dictates of a communist country, he decided to leave the country and strike out on his own. Gorge is like the 1.5 million Cubans who have left the country to make a better life for themselves. Many of these refugees have chosen to enter the United States. They, like Gorge, are tired of the economic stagnation and the total lack of freedom. As an example, professionals, like doctors and engineers earn the same amount which currently is $20.00 a month. Those same professionals can double or triple their income by driving a cab. Not surprisingly, they are looking elsewhere for a better life and among them is Gorge.
When did you leave Cuba and where did you go?
I left Cuba in 2014 and lived and worked in Northern Mexico. My family helped me to buy a plane ticket and I worked as a day laborer to repay them. The work was hard and the temperatures where I worked were very hot but I was determined to make a new life for myself and my family. I worked on an olive farm, and as a day laborer as a carpenter. I also preached everywhere I went and sold religious books.
Were you married at this time?
In 2008 I married my wife and it was very difficult to leave her behind.. But, I had a plan and that plan was to take her and my children out of Cuba. My goal was to work as a pastor and preach the gospel without the government restricting what I could say and to whom I could say it.
What happened next?
Jobs in Mexico were affected by a downturn in the economy and I could not find work. I was supported to a limited degree by my church but I was looking for a more long term solution and to come to the United States.
How did you enter the U.S.?
I went to the border of Mexico and U.S. and was met by a Cuban friend. He came inside Mexico and we went to the U.S. Immigration. They allowed me entry because of my sponsor and my refugee status from Cuba. My first American city I came to was Tucson, Arizona. From Tucson I flew to Miami, Florida where they have a Cuban group that helps refugee exiles to settle in America.
Why did you choose to live in Oregon?
It wasn’t so much as a choice as it was the only opportunity to work in the ministry. My wife and children were also able to join me here and I was very happy in my new country. Both of us work and I am able to reach out to the Spanish speaking and share the gospel which is my passion.
What did you first notice about your new country?
For the first time in my life I didn’t have someone following me and I didn’t have to look over my shoulder. The police are here to help you and not watch your every move. In Cuba you have to be very careful what you say and who you are with. You could end up in prison for saying or being with someone the government doesn’t like.
I was almost overcome by walking for the first time into your supermarkets that are filled with everything imaginable. But, I felt sad at the same time because I thought about my family back in Cuba who don’t have any of these things available to them. Remember, we could only get fish and cheese once a year and local fruit was very expensive. I now know that the U.S. is a country that is truly blessed in so many ways.
What did you notice about the people here?
What I noticed about the Americans is how polite they are. Customer service is very helpful with attention to detail. The next thing I noticed is how clean everything looks. Your roads are wonderful and the designs of your buildings are magnificent. In Cuba the buildings and housing is in disrepair and crumbling. They can’t get materials and even if they could it is too costly to purchase them.
What would you like to do?
My goal is to work in the ministry. God has answered that prayer and I have been called to work in a large city many miles from my new home and friends here. I will miss them because they have been very supportive, kind and loving. What a truly great country this is and I want to make it even better.
Gorge* has family members still living in Cuba and because of fear of retribution his name has been changed.