ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - As the world continues to celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, one man living in East Texas is reflecting on the sacrifice his parents made in moving his family from Cuba decades ago.
"People can talk all they want, but if they have never been there, never lived it, they will never know what it's like to live under communism," said Carlos Guzman who immigrated with his family in 1963. "My parents come to this country speaking not one word of English, knowing no one, and made something of themselves."
Guzman now owns a business in Zavalla, and said his family overcame the strife and oppression of the communist government in Cuba. He reflects on the days they threatened to take he and his brother, then six and twelve-years-old, away from his parents. His father even spending time in jail under Castro's strict rule.
"I remember they would come to our house for no reason, to go inside and search for things. They would tear everything up, and leave everything outside," Guzman said. "I mean it's just awful. You have rights in this country, you don't have rights in Cuba."
The sacrifice his father made paved the road of success he and his family worked hard to achieve. He looks back at the depravity of opportunity in his home country, and urges others to understand the oppression they are living under.
"People do not understand the heart aches, and the pain the people in Cuba are suffering. My mother sends a package back to her relatives every year or so, because they cannot get the necessities they need," Guzman said. "Unless you have been in it, you do not understand it. You have got to appreciate what you have. You have got to appreciate this great country of America."
As an American citizen he said he is so proud of where he came from, and even more grateful for the opportunity this country has given him to achieve his dreams. He said he only hopes that one day, those living in Cuba can experience the same freedom.
"I think deep down inside we can only do so much celebrating because the regime is still there, but I think people are looking forward to what's to come," Guzman said.
He said he remains cautiously optimistic as they will now transition into a new chapter in their country's history, but will never forget those that suffered under Castro's leadership.
"I can remember getting one sack of potatoes, one carton of eggs every month. I hate that anyone has passed away, but that man was a dictator, and a lot of people died at his hands," Guzman said. "Which is why I am now hopeful. They can move forward, that dictator is gone, they can go on with their life, and hopefully one day Cuba can be free of the communists."
It's a sentiment that many share as all eyes fall on his brother Raul Castro, who has taken the reins from his brother. Guzman said that he still has many relatives in Cuba. His mother spoke with them this morning, and they are celebrating along with the rest of the world, for what this new Cuban future could look like.