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S.W. Florida Daily News


Cape Coral couple living the American dream after leaving Cuba in 1997

Cape Coral couple living the American dream after leaving Cuba in 1997

CAPE CORAL, Fla.  — It’s been a year since the people of Cuba took to the streets of the island demanding basic human rights that have been ripped away from their people for over 60 years.

Cuba, a country where free speech could have consequences, is what Santa Castaneda and her husband Amilcar, came face to face with.

“A man came into my home, who wanted to hurt me, that’s when I decided that we should abandon the county, bring our daughters and bring our whole family,” Santa Castaneda recalling the moment a man tried to hurt her after she was on her front porch, expressing her frustration with the government.

In 1997, the couple did what many Cubans did after Fidel Castro’s revolution, forced to leave their home country, “You have to abandon everything, you’ve made your home, you have to abandon your family, you can’t come back because now you have no rights as a Cuban,” Santa said.

No rights on the Island and nothing to take with them, as they fought for a new life here in Southwest Florida.

“Our house, the one we built ourselves, our efforts, they took it away, the government takes it away from you,” Amilcar remembering the emotional moment he had to give away everything he put his blood, sweat, and tears into, “You can’t sell that house, you can’t do anything with it, you have to turn it into the government.”

While the Cuban government might give you rights to start a business, Castaneda says they’ll find any nuances to take everything away from you once they see any kind of profit. However, that wasn’t the case once they made it to Cape Coral.

By 1999 they had saved enough money to buy their first home and open a business, Coco Bakery Restaurant in Cape Coral, that’s filled with friends and family behind the counter.

“When you have a business here, it’s not the same as in Cuba, there are laws here, we could have everything, with our business we’ve continued to thrive,” Amilcar said proudly, “We’ve had the liberty to work and to push forward. we’ve helped our daughters, they’ve gotten great education, we’ve had 23 years of a successful business, we’ve had four businesses and I don’t complain, we’ve worked hard,” Santa said with a smile right next to her husband.

It’s that fight for freedom, that led thousands of Cubans, on July 11, 2021, to protest a deteriorating healthcare system, especially during a pandemic, but it’s more than that.

The lack of food, transparency, and no freedoms, fighting for an end to the communist regime that has oppressed the country for 63 years.

Santa thinking back on that day a year ago, “It was a lot of emotion, watching my people united, asking for liberty, at the same time I suffered a lot, I cried in the massacre I was seeing, the abuse of children, teenagers and older people, arresting them, beating them, just because they were asking for liberty.”

Until now, there are no real numbers or conflicting reports on just how many Cuban citizens were taken in as political prisoners or what punishment they may have faced due to those protests one year ago.

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