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America, My Home Essay Contest

America, My Home

Antonio Suarez
Southwest Miami Senior High School, Miami, FL
Sponsoring Station: WLRN, Miami, FL

I have traveled a long way, enduring scorn and fighting ideas. I am from a small town in Cuba, Caibarien. Yes, I am just another Cuban adolescent who had to flee like a flea from my birthplace because things were unbearable. After nearly five years, I feel the need to share my overseas adventures with the sole purpose of divulging the nature of life without U.S. dollars.

I was born in a little town in the middle of a little island in the Caribbean. It is so small that not many things happen there, but everyone knows it because of its authoritarian government. My neighborhood was not that big, but it was better for me like that because everyone knew everybody else and everyone helped each other. My childhood was not great but not bad. I didn't travel because I had no need to; everything I knew was within my reach.

Life was nearly impossible; there was no work, no food, no money, and no stores in which to buy things even if money were accessible. There was no electricity, and water-wellonce in a while. Life itself was very hard. So, my parents took a big risk. They decided to leave Cuba and everything we had, pulling me from my childish thoughts to earthly reality. There was a problem with this idea. Leaving Cuba legally was impossible because to travel to a foreign country was and is impossible for simple civilians. If any chance every existed, a lot of money would have to be paid-money we didn't have.

In April of 1999, we left at night so the police would not catch us. Leaving behind more than a piece of land, we went in search of a dream which could burst at any time. We were at sea for more than a month on a raft my father built and had hidden in a remote place. We stocked the raft with about 10 Coca Cola 2-liter bottles filled with water and some bread. We lost track of the days at sea. Sharks were all around us waiting for one of us to fall overboard, but that never happened. We were very hungry because we ran out of food and water. Our only "food" was our courage for life in the United States, It kept us alive.

Then a sudden danger of losing everything came upon us when we saw the U.S. Coastguard vessel. At that moment complex feelings emerged and overwhelmed me and our goal. The craziest ideas went through my mind. In my mind a lonely word "Jump!" moved upwards, downwards, and in a split of second I felt like I was in the eye of a tornado. I was just watching the calm inside the eye of the tornado but knowing that the worst was yet to come. "Jump, jump;" the word fed through to my muscles and cancelled all logical reasoning. It was terrifying. Only one thing kept me from being part of the food chain of the sharks-my mother's hand, her tenderness and calm in these extreme conditions kept me from jumping off the raft.

Finally, one night we reached the sands of freedom. I felt a strange feeling in my body when my feet felt the sand. It was the hand and spirit of God that had guided and protected me on the journey leaving me the knowledge that I must start over again. I have lived these last years as if I were a newborn baby, learning and asking about everything.

No matter how hard life is, whether my car is a Lexus or not, in the end I have everything I could have asked for. My parents offered me opportunities. They risked everything for this, and I'm planning on paying them back by being what they could never be living in Cuba. I am accomplishing their dreams and mine. I'm letting the world know, that yes, it is worth it to fight for hope no matter how unworkable or impossible it seems. Just believe in yourself and God's guidance.

That is my story. That is the way I came to be an American and made America my home.

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