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Laughing at the hard times

A story of one Cuban family's journey into Americanization.

June 10, 2011|By Brian McGackin

In a world where everyone seems to be looking for the next big thing, it’s easy to forget that there are people out there who would be happy with anything. There are millions of people around the world who would go to incredible lengths for the chance to live in a country with as many opportunities as we have here. Many of these people live just outside of our very borders, with freedom just a few hundred miles away.

In his new memoir, “My Cuban Story: Funny Memories from Serious Times…,” Burbank resident Vic Cabrera details the remarkable story of his family’s risky departure from Communist Cuba in the early 1960s, through their brief political asylum in Spain, and finally to their struggles to make ends meet as legal immigrants in New York and New Jersey. What sets this book apart from similar immigration stories, though, is Cabrera’s ability to laugh at the same hard times and predicaments that brought him and his family so much grief and heartache decades ago.

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Cabrera’s Cuban story begins even before his birth in Havana on May 14, 1954, less than a decade before Fidel Castro’s infamous rise to power. His parents, both from large, close-knit families, were born on neighboring farms in the small town of Jaruco. Cabrera’s father enjoyed a position at the local railroad station, where he made many connections that would eventually be of tremendous help when the family ultimately decided to leave Cuba for good. Their close calls in Cuba are just act one of this story, though.

Despite hard times and troubles with poverty, homesickness and the general struggles that come with being a minority in any location, Cabrera chooses to look back on his early years in America with fond memories. The book is put together as a collection of vignettes that form a portrait of the author’s youth. Cabrera does not attempt to dazzle with flashy prose or elegant style. Instead, he portrays his formative years as a time of youthful innocence, as if he decided long ago never to let go of the endless hopefulness he held onto as a child.

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