© 2022 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Former City Commissioner Recalls Uncharted Waters From Cuba To Coral Gables


For me, the most important journeys have led to South Florida.

The journey that started in December 1959 involved a move from Cuba, north to freedom. Forty-two years later, in July 1992, a return trip from Virginia with our 4-year-old son Peter completed a cycle that molded several generations of our family.

Our exit from Cuba in 1959 was without great fanfare. My mom, grandmother, brother and I boarded a Pan American flight to Miami. My father would join us later.

The move was temporary, or so was the belief in our small Cuban community, and poignantly confirmed in my parents' correspondence with family during that time. My mom faithfully listened to broadcasts from Cuba on her Zenith Transoceanic short-wave radio and remained hopeful of a resolution.

In April 1961, those hopes were dashed not only for my family, but for scores of newly arrived Cubans. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion sealed our fate in our newfound land.

I remember my mother announcing that the United States was our home now and that as soon as possible we would become citizens, a promise kept in 1966.

My brother John and I learned about Cuba through the stories, music, photos and movies that we managed to get out when we left. My mom made it very clear, however, that although we were proud of our heritage, we were now Americans. She disliked the hyphenated Cuban-American term because she felt it divided us and that we had to respect the country that gave us safe harbor.

My parents never missed the opportunity to vote, and that made a lasting impression.

And after losing their home in Cuba, they found a home in Coral Gables, one that they enjoyed and shared with us until they died.

Our son Peter was born in 1987 in Richmond, Va., during a graduate school hiatus from South Florida, a stay that would last six wonderful years. T.S. Eliot in his epic poem The Four Quartets states that, "Home is where one starts from."

And for me, in 1992, on a dreary winter's day, it was the place where I needed to return. So in July 1992, amid a Miami summer and one month before Hurricane Andrew, our small family arrived at my parents' home.

We are still in Coral Gables today. Many events, many stories, happy ones, sad ones and funny ones all intertwined. The things that make a life filled with love possible.

Peter, who just graduated from college, recounts in a recent remembrance of an "ever deeper appreciation of the gifts that had been bestowed upon me by my grandparents; not only their invaluable support, but even more so their elegance, their unwavering ethical compass and their love of family."

Because of their generosity, our son had the benefit of a superior education, both in high school and college. Marta and John Anderson's love and sacrifices have borne good fruit.

My son Peter will be leaving home for a journey north to a new job and boundless opportunities. I am excited for his new adventure and heartsick that we no longer will we spend summers together just hanging out and talking and watching Wimbledon.

There will be a new rhythm to all of our lives, one that will bring fresh revelations.

Moving into these unchartered waters, I remember all that has happened to our family.

Many important days that have molded us and made us strong together. Many important days that have changed the way we live, love and experience life. Many important days to come, remembering the time-tested adage that it is not the destination but the journey that makes all the difference.

Maria Anderson is a former Coral Gables city commissioner.

Tell us your story: HistoryMiami invites you to share your Miami Story. To submit your story, click here. Your story may be posted at miamiherald.com/miamistories, published in Sunday’s Neighbor's print edition and archived at HistoryMiami.org.

About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Company, WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.