Zavalla man recalls family's escape from Communist Cuba

Zavalla man recalls family's escape from Communist Cuba
Guzman and his wife
Guzman and his wife

ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - After half a century of oppression and poverty, earlier this summer the President announced re-establishing the diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  An East Texan shared with us the story of his family escaping Cuba as political refugees under Castro.

"Today, I can formally say the U.S. will establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba," Obama said.

"My parents came from Cuba in 1963," said Carlos Guzman, a Zavalla business owner.

"Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward," Obama said.

"You have to go on with life," said Guzman.

He's now a well known East Texas business owner and family man in Zavalla. The oppression felt  in Cuba decades ago as a young boy still remains fresh in Guzman's mind.

"The army would come in the house, tear everything up, leave everything outside, and you'd have to put it all back in," Guzman said.

Oppression, adversity, and famine were named normal, and food was being rationed.

"My parents told me we had one chicken a week and one bag of potatoes a month. It was devastating," Guzman said.

Guzman says his father soon made a decision that would change his life forever.

"Either we all go and we all make it, or we all go and we all die," Guzman said. "My dad knew the Communists were going to take over, so he decided he had to leave the country."

The Guzman family, like millions over the past half century, set out for America.

"My Dad came up with a system to hijack the boat. They literally hijacked the boat," Guzman said.

This is a risk that Carlos is forever grateful for.

"You do what you think is better for your kids," Guzman said. "For him to bring us to this great country is amazing to me. It brings tears to my eyes."

His father's determination to learn English and thrive at any cost is engraved in Carlos today.

"My father is very patriotic, and so is my mom. They believe in this country,"  Guzman said.

Cubans left behind are still in his heart. As for the new policy after half a century Guzman said, "I'm kind of on the fence with these new relations with Cuba because we know it's not going to help the people it needs to help."

Carlos said his family still sends items back to Cuba, but he's forever indebted to his father for saving him from the life that would have been ahead of him in there.

"You can't tell me you can't do it in this country," Guzman said.

Guzman said two of those families that escaped with his still reside in Beaumont to this day.

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