A Walk Through Caibarién in my Grandfather’s Shoes
By Daniel Arevalo
January 28, 1962, Juan Francisco Luna, or “Illo” (pronounced ee-yo) for short, left his home at 3 a.m. towards the Atlantic Ocean only two blocks away from his doorstep in Caibarién, Villa Clara, Cuba. From a chapín, or rowboat, to a sailboat, to a fishing boat, there were a total of 14 refugees on board, just 90 miles south of new lives. At age 39, Illo was not the oldest among the 14, and definitely not the youngest. Carlita and Angel Luis, his beloved wife and son, would trail behind him a few months later, making the same courageous journey through the open ocean. Carlita, or Yaya as her grandchildren later knew her, was a loving, strong, and independent woman.
“At 7 a.m. as the sun was rising, all you could see were the houses, so far away. And that makes one sad, just the few of us who were coming without knowing what, without any family…the majority of us didn’t have anyone here…”