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Voyage of Independence
Omar Couceiro II
years. Who would have thought I would have even
been around eighteen
years? A lot of people including myself thought I
would have been dead by now. My
whole life has been a near death experience. From
the moment of my birth to this
very day I have been around death. There are
even gunshots going by my
window as I write this. Shootings in my city are so common that the local Catholic
school is trying to make bullet proof vests part of
the school uniform.
Let me stop. Iím getting ahead of myself. Iím
going to take it back seven years.
The day was March 16, 1996. I remember it like it
was yesterday. It was the day
before my 12th birthday.
That day I woke up to my mother crying. Since I was
man in the house I thought it was my job to protect
and everyone in it. So I got out of bed and went
over to my
motherís doorway. I stood there and took a look at
She was sitting on her bed looking at a picture. A
picture of my
dad with his arms around my mother and I. My father
the Cuban army a year and a half ago.
She looked a mess. Her hair looked as if she put
her finger in an outlet. She had
lines of mascara running down her face.
I walked over to my mother, sat down beside her, and
in a sympathetic voice I said, ďEverything is going to be ok. I miss dad too.Ē
My mother wiped her face clear of tears. In what
sounded like a mumble she said,
ďNo, mi hijo. How could you forget? Do you know
what tomorrow is? How could
you forget what tomorrow is?Ē
I sat there thinking. I didnít understand what she
was talking about. I replied,
ďTomorrow is my birthday. I donít know what youíre
She looked in my brown eyes, said loud and clear,Ē
Tomorrow you join the
army!Ē I was shocked and in disbelief. How could I
forget such a thing?
In the country of Cuba at the age 12 you have to
join the Cuban army. You have
no choice. If you try and fight it you are shot
dead. No prison, no fine, just death.
For countless hours I sat there on my motherís bed.
Crying like a little baby.
Thinking of possible ways I could get out of this.
But I thought of nothing. I was
thinking of my father. Wishing he was here. When I
was young he used to always
get me out of trouble and make my problems go away.
But I guess that wasnít
going to happen this time.
My mother told me to go lay down on my bed for a
little while. As I walked to my
room I heard the door close. I guess my mother had
to do something. About a half
an hour later she returned. She walked in my
bedroom and told me to get ready to
go. As I was getting dressed I could smell my
mother cooking up some food. It
My mother called me over to the kitchen. I sat down
at the table. She gave me a
big plate of food. As I was eating we spoke a lot
about things. Including my Aunt
My Aunt Cookie now lives in America. Florida I
believe. She is one of the few our
ďgreatĒ dictator, Fidel Castro, let leave the
country. That is very rare. You have a
better chance of winning the lottery and getting
struck by lighting twice on the same
day. From what I hear, she went to school and then
on to a local college.
When we were finished my mom told me to put my
shoes on cause we had to do
something. As we were walking down the road my
mother started to cry again. She
told that she wanted me to leave Cuba and go to my
Auntís house in America. I
tried to argue with her but I had no luck.
As we came closer to the beach I became nervous.
And it increased with every
step. As we were walking I was trying to wake up. I
thought I could possibly be
dreaming. But that was a failure also. You could
tell if you'd seen all the black and
blue marks on my arm. Due to all the times I
pinched myself trying to wake up
from this nightmare.
By the time we reached the beach it was nightfall.
In the distance, I had seen a
wooden log raft. I guess that is what my mother
went to do. When we reached the
water my mother gave me a compass, a picture of the
family, twenty dollars and
directions to my auntís house. After she gave me
everything she gave me a big hug.
I thought my head was going to bust because she
hugged me so tight.
She told me to go. And that sheíd see me later. The
both of us knew we wouldnít
see each other again. I turned around and looked at
my mother. It is a sight I could
never forget. My mother, on her knees crying, in
front of a picture of Fidel Castro.
With the Cuban flag above her flapping in the wind.
I jumped off the raft and swam back to my mother. I
had to give her one last hug
and kiss before I left. When I reached her, I ran
into her arms and gave her a long
hug. She told me I had to go or Iíd be caught by
Castro. So I swam back to the
I started to paddle. It was not easy. I had to get
the raft over the waves. I nearly
fell over twice. But I made it. I paddled late into
It was now sunrise. I was tired and I could barely
move my arms. I figured it would
be best to rest now and continue at night. I tried
to sleep but I couldnít. All day I
sat there staring at pictures of my family. Wishing I was
still with my mother. It was my
birthday and I was here stuck on a raft. Every once
in a while I would look at my
compass to make sure I was going straight.
It was mid-afternoon and I decided to get going. It
started to drizzle and it would
not be easy to paddle in a storm during the dark. I
paddled past nightfall.
It had to be around one or two in the morning. The
rain was coming down hard.
The wind started to pick up. Waves were getting
bigger. Then out of nowhere,
Bang! I started to drown but I was able to get
myself over one of the logs from the
raft. I fell asleep.
When I woke up I found myself on a beach. I was
shocked. I looked around trying
to see if I could see any clues of were I was. I
didnít see any Cuban flags or big
posters of Castro. I walked off the beach and saw a
long row of houses. They
didnít look one bit like they did in Cuba. Then
finally I saw an American flag. I
was so happy; I dropped on my knees and kissed the
For hours I walked around the street until someone
drove up to me and asked me if
I needed help. I told him I was trying to get to my
auntís house. He offered me a
ride. When I reached the door of my auntís house I
didnít know what to do. I
knocked on the door and she answered. She knew what
I had just got finished
That was years ago. Since then I became a citizen.
I have gone to school. And Iím
one of the top people in my school. I have dreams
of one day getting involved in
the government so I can help my fellow people.
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