Cuban-born immigrant Emilio Estefan owes his vast business empire — including Grammy-winning records, restaurants, and hotels — to the opportunities afforded him as a United States citizen.
None of it would have been possible had he stayed in Cuba, a country transformed into a freedom-squelching nightmare by its former leader, Fidel Castro.
Estefan’s new book, The Rhythm of Success, recalls the author’s decision to flee Cuba as a young teen and his subsequent rise to fame and fortune.
Part self-help tome, part autobiography, Success is an unabashed love letter to the U.S.
“Is there any other country in the world that has been so generous to so many people?” he asks.
It’s also a fresh reminder of how Castro created an atmosphere in which people will risk everything for the chance to escape.
The book belabors the obvious at times, particularly when the author is doling out commonsense business advice. But readers should be patient. Estefan’s life story, that of an immigrant who snatched every chance his new country gave him, makes for a compelling narrative full of warm, colorful anecdotes.
“My childhood ended when I was eleven,” Estefan writes on the very first page. His young mind couldn’t process all the changes happening to Cuba in the 1960s, but he understood “freedom was a place where soldiers didn’t come to your home and herd people around with machine guns.”
Estefan recalls the chilling effect the government’s oppressive policies had on family and friends alike. Those who could leave did. He managed to escape along with his father to Spain and later to the U.S., cleaving his tight-knit family in two.
He remembers getting letters from his mother and brother, some sliced and diced by Cuban officials, others with words blacked out.
The young Cuban arrived in the United States with “nothing but a suitcase full of dreams and a heart filled with hope and optimism. That, it seems, was enough,” he writes.