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As a Survivor of Castro's Totalitarian Regime, Freedom for Me Is Personal

AP Photo/Ismael Francisco

After Castro’s revolution, personal and business properties were seized. The hotel my father worked for was taken by the government and my father was forced to move to the countryside, where I was born. In 1966 my father applied for the Freedom Flight U.S. visa. Anyone who petitioned to leave the island was called a worm, and the government confiscated their ration booklets. My family was fed by relatives, neighbors, and friends. As a toddler, my family and I walked five miles to my grandparents’ farm so the children could drink milk.

Once, in the middle of the night, because we had not eaten all day, Mom woke us up so we could eat. As I walked out of the bedroom, I saw Dad holding a large black bag filled with food he had purchased on the black market. He gave it a couple of shakes and canned foods tumbled onto the table. In my excitement, I cried out, “Look, food!” Both my parents, in unison, came at me to silence me. “Shush, girl. The neighbors will hear you.” They were referring to the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs). Neighbors spying on neighbors. Here in America, believe it or not, the FBI is calling for people to do the same. No joke.

Along with other men who wanted to leave the country, my dad was forced to work in sugarcane labor camps for months at a time. He was gone for so long that I once asked him, “Are you, my father?” Several times throughout his life, he told me the workers were not fed and they were forced to eat a horse at one point.

After a three-year legal process, in August of 1969, the immigration papers were finally approved. My dad received our visas but my mother was denied hers. We thought she’d join us shortly but little did we know that Fidel Castro’s communist regime would keep us apart for twenty-three years.

On August 29, 1969, my father, two of my siblings, and I boarded an airplane at what was then called Varadero Airport. I was five years old. I looked around for Mom, but I did not see her. “Papi, where’s Mommy?” I did not wait for an answer. The look on his face confirmed my fear. I ran off the airplane as fast as my short legs would carry me. I did not see Dad run after me. But he scooped me up, held me tightly under his arm, and through clenched teeth whispered, “You better keep still girl before they keep us all here.” I cried for twenty-three years.

In 1992, my mother received her visa, two decades after our departure. I once asked her why she allowed our family to be separated. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “Barbara, you had not eaten in three days.” I asked my dad several times why he allowed our separation. Exasperated, he responded, “So you wouldn’t be indoctrinated.” Are we allowing our kids to be indoctrinated in our schools today?

Related: Despite Protests, Cuba’s Communists Still in Firm Control

After sixty years of oppression, the Cuban people are rallying for freedom. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest of lack of food, medicine, and blackouts. The people are starving; their children are starving. While many United States athletes dishonor our flag, Cuban protestors wave Old Glory in the face of tyranny. While our mainstream news media seeks to silence us with intimidation, the Cuban people cry out, “We are not afraid.” Truly, “give me liberty or give me death” in full display. Think about it: During the protests, the Cuban government has cut its people off from the internet and social media. Sound familiar? It should. Big Tech has done the same to many conservative Americans who do not align with their political views.

As a Cuban-American, our freedom is especially important to me. My family was ravaged by Castro’s communist regime. He took power as a socialist but within no time he exposed his totalitarian claws. Communism is not at our door, it’s in the house—the White House. If we allow our country to go the way of Cuba or Venezuela, where would we flee to? If there is no free America, there is no American Dream. Wake up, America, socialism is just a nice word for communism.

I am running for U.S. Congress in South Carolina District 7 against Trump-impeacher Tom Rice. President Trump fiercely protected our Constitution, our freedom, and fought off socialist beasts. Since Biden’s takeover, our nation has experienced a rapid communist push. I have never had political ambition, but when our speech is censored by Tech Giants and the left uses communist political tactics against American citizens, it’s time to get involved. I realize if we want to make changes, we must be at the table. As I campaign throughout my district, I stress the urgency to push back on the left’s political overreach. Freedom starts with you. For me, it’s personal.