It was January, 1959.

Fidel Castro marches into Havana and takes over Cuba.

Many thought he would be a good change. He made so many promises and gave so much hope. He was charismatic and charming and had the potential to change Cuba.

A few hundred miles away in the a small city of Elia, outside of Camaguey, a young man felt in his heart that no good would come of this. The promises seemed far fetched, as if so much was not being said.

He worried at the outcome of his beloved country. A country that was in many ways paradise with it’s white sand beaches, perfect blue coast and sweet smells of tobacco, rum, sugarcane and pineapple lingering in every town. In his eyes, Cuba was Eden.

His family had been so blessed from the soil, la tierra. From the land his father grew plantations filled with pineapples, sugarcane and where hundreds of cows grazed. He had expanded on their properties, creating factories for ice and lumber and their electric company provided electricity for the first time to the five towns that surrounded them.

He loved his land. It was his inheritance. It was what he would leave to his children and their children.

Life was good and full and blessed. His father had provided for him and his children and they lacked nothing.

Then, the storm came in. At first a few clouds rolled by, but before the end of that year the hurricane force would take over.

Banks confiscated their savings. “All you have now belongs to the people of Cuba.” Land was confiscated, possessions were distributed to others and homes were quartered.

Before it could get any worse, He left. He took his wife and three children and with 500 dollars in his pocket, they boarded a plane headed for Mexico hoping that this regime would all blow over and believing that they would soon return.

He left all his remaining assets to his younger brother who would take care of everything when things changed.

In Mexico he worked as a ranch foreman.

A few years later he put his wife and children on a raft and crossed the Rio Grande.

American Residents as soon as they touched the free soil.

He has never been back to Cuba. Paradise was lost again.
His brother and mother came over a few years later.


The land, the factories, all that they had worked and sweat for was gone. Stolen.
That same land is now baseball fields and dirty, old apartment complexes.

He continued to work hard through all his years. The family grew and were all successful. He is blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren. He has a legacy. Perhaps the land and the dream was stolen, but the legacy will live on for generations. And maybe one day his sons will return to Eden.



The Portilla men on Patuto’s 80th Birthday. Sam had been
born a month before.


Patuto and Sam, so far the last of the Portilla boys.


Patuto, Orlando and Sam. I think they kinda’ look alike.
They have the same facial structure.

“Father thank you for legacies and for your hand that was over every detail of this family. Thank you that we are a family of believers. Thank you for stories that I will tell my children again and again. Thank you for such patriarchs who do all that they can for the good of their loved ones. In your precious name, Amen.”

Sincerely, from me to you.

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