Tag Archive | "George Duarte"

Escaping Cuba

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Escaping Cuba

Posted on 22 July 2015 by La Habra Journal

One La Habra resident shares his action-filled story of human will and his  determination to escape capture and his perseverance to rejoin his family and start over in the United States.

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

After 54 years, the United States government opened the doors to relations with the government of Cuba. The doors to the Cuban embassy opened in Washington D.C., and next week the US will open its embassy doors in Havana. However, for one La Habra resident, the government of Cuba will

Determination: La Habra resident George Duarte suffered 10 years of imprisonment in Cuba. His story ,“The Caribbean Alcatraz,” explained how his spirit was never broken.

Determination: La Habra resident George Duarte suffered 10 years of imprisonment in Cuba. His story ,“The Caribbean Alcatraz,” explained how his spirit was never broken.

always be a closed door.
The story of George Duarte is a testament to the drive and determination of the human spirit.  In an effort to join his mother in the United States, Duarte was arrested trying to leave the Communist island country and spent the following 10 years of his life locked up as a political prisoner in Cuban prisons.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I did what I had to do.”
Duarte explained that he had a will that wouldn’t allow him to be stopped by the Castro government.  He was imprisoned, with others, because he tried to leave the country and emigrate and join his mother in the US.
He escaped from captivity three times in the 10 years, spending days and nights in sugar fields, traveling the countryside and dodging Cuban authorities as much as possible.
“When I was in the first prison, La Cabana, I said to myself that I wouldn’t be here more than three months,” he said.  “I escaped the first time after two and a half months in prison.  I never accepted my sentence.”
However, escaping the prison was just part of the challenge. The island of Cuba acted as a natural prison itself.  Duarte even titled his memoirs “The Caribbean Alcatraz”, relating to his exploits trying to escape the island.

George Duarte with his daughter Lizette, who as Miss La Habra 2012.

George Duarte with his daughter Lizette, who as Miss La Habra 2012.

Duarte’s book  details his story and challenges as an architectural student who tried to leave the country and ended up spending 10 years as a political prisoner, but never giving up hope to join his family.
His exploits of escaping from the prisons made friends start to compare him to the noted French prison escape artists and called him the “Cuban Papillion.”  It even garnered him the respect of his captors.
“When Lieutenant Breto picked me up after my third escape, he was friendly,” Duarte explained.  He spoke highly of me to the chief of the police department that I was at. He said  ‘this is the guy who escaped from me from Camp Fajardo a few months ago and planned a tremendous escape from Taco Taco.”
Duarte didn’t start out wanting to become a notable escape artist.  He tried to get a visa to leave before the Castro regime clamped down on Cubans wanting to emigrate from the island.  However, Duarte missed the final boat to the US.
“I took three buses to get to the dock,” Duarte explained.  “The boat left that morning and I missed it. After that day, I was a dynamo! I felt I had to get out of here no matter how.  And I was going to do it. “
Life as a political prisoner was not easy. It meant maximum security prisons and long hours of work in the labor camps.
The prisoners themselves banded together to support each other.  Many of the political prisoners were professionals, doctors, lawyers, priests, and many others who did not support the Communist government’s belief and mission.
They learned from each other and held classes that taught each other various skills to pass the time.  Duarte himself said he learned French while in captivity.
However, after his escape attempts and recapture, life became harder for Duarte.
He was sent to the maximum-security prison Pinar del Rio and was placed into a dungeon that was referred to as “the toaster.”
The cell was a windowless 10x10x10-foot room with an iron door.  It was called the toaster because it shared a wall with the prison’s ovens.
“It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face,” Duarte explained.
After his eyes became adjusted he saw three concrete bunks and a hole in the ground.
He explained that he also saw something else.
“After my eyes got used to the dark, I saw a dark spot along the wall,” Duarte explained. “It was moving.  It was thousands of roaches.”
Duarte spent the next two weeks battling the roaches until he could declare victory.
While in the toaster he was served three condensed milk cans of water to drink and two condensed cans of food each day.
Duarte said he spent the days walking to get tired to sleep.
He explained that he used to visualize himself somewhere else.  He used it to pass the time and to motivate him to get through the captivity.
One time he imagined himself in a nice suit in a nice car driving to perform at the Tropicana.  He said the vision was so real that when he saw himself introduced on stage, he started singing classic Nat King Cole songs.
“So, imagine, a guy in his underwear and wearing boots in the dark pretending to have a microphone and singing ‘Stardust,’” he said with a smile.  “I was living for the moment.”
He explained that after he finished the song he heard a voice though the walls, “Hey politico, do you know ‘Smile’? Can you sing it for me?”
So, he sang and realized that he wasn’t alone.  He spent the remaining nights entertaining unknown prisoners through the walls of the dungeon.
While he entertained to pass the time, he never forgot his goal to escape, and continued to plan another escape.
Duarte explained that his drive to escape was due to the desire to join his mother and to see his daughter, who was 5 years old when he went to prison. According to Duarte, her mother married a man who worked for the government and she limited her daughter’s visits to the prisons to see Duarte. He said he saw her four times in his 10 years of captivity.
When Duarte was finally released and allowed to go the United States, he asked his daughter, then 16, to come with him.  She declined and decided to stay in Cuba, where she still lives today.
Duarte also details how his faith gave him strength.  Despite the challenging conditions, his faith never waivered and he points to times throughout his exploits where he feels that God intervened.
“I was in a sugar cane field at dusk surrounded by guards on horses and soldiers with German Shepards and a corporal with a machine gun ready to shoot me,” he described.  He felt that he was going to die, but was ready for it.  He even cussed out the corporal who pointed the gun at him.  It would have been very easy. After all, what is one more dead prisoner?  However, Duarte said that God intervened and the chief of the camp, saved his life. He told the corporal to “leave him alone.”
“What is that?  It’s the hand of fate, ”Duarte explained about the camp commander.  “So he helped me survive.  Then, I escaped from him.”
Duarte’s imprisonment finally came to an end in October 1979 when President Jimmy Carter negotiated the release of political prisoners in Cuba, in exchange for money.
At the age of 39, Duarte said he was “born again”  when he landed in the United States.  He reunited with his mother,  built himself up as a general contractor and became a US citizen.
He runs his own contracting business with his wife Liz and daughter Lizette. He is currently looking for a publisher to commercially publish his memoirs.  However, he will sign copies of his book for anyone who is interested.
Duarte’s story of perseverance and commitment to family and freedom is something that he feels many will find inspiring.
“I’m proud of what I went through and how I behaved,” he said. “I want to share my story with everyone.”

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La batalla por el sueño americano

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La batalla por el sueño americano

Posted on 22 July 2015 by La Habra Journal

Por Genesis Miranda
La Habra Journal

Imagínese estar preso en un cuarto pequeño como castigo, llamado el “tostador” donde no entre nada de luz. No hay nada más que una pequeña cama sin colchón y a tu alrededor vuelan miles de cucarachas.

 Determinación: Ex preso político cubano George Duarte muestra su libro con su hija, Lizette, ex Miss La Habra. El libro habla de su lucha por salir de Cuba para los Estados Unidos.

Determinación: Ex preso político cubano George Duarte muestra su libro con su hija, Lizette, ex Miss La Habra. El libro habla de su lucha por salir de Cuba para los Estados Unidos.

Esto es exactamente lo que vivió George Duarte, quien fue preso político en Cuba por 10 años. ¿Su delito? Tratar de escapar a los estados unidos.
Duarte cuenta todas las dificultades que pasó como preso en Cuba en su libro que público llamado “Alcatraz del Caribe”, publicado en inglés y español.
Cuenta que antes de que estuviera en control Castro “Había un tiempo en Cuba, donde salías cuando amanecía y no tenías que regresar hasta la noche”, Duarte dijo. “Éramos muy libres de niños, jugando afuera en las canchas.”
Pero todo eso cambio cuando entro al liderazgo el régimen Castro. Cualquier persona que intentaba escapar era castigada con una sentencia en prisión.
Duarte siempre le escribía cartas a su madre, quien ya estaba en los estados unidos, para que ella no se preocupara.
Él le escribía pequeñas mentiras piadosas en sus cartas para que ella no supiera la verdad de todo por lo que él estaba pasando en la prisión.
Es difícil imaginar cómo una persona que paso por tantos obstáculos nunca se rindió y siempre tuvo la esperanza de salir de un país como Cuba.
“Primero que nada tienes que tener la necesidad, tienes que tener una razón por la cual quieres hacer algo que es tan peligroso”, Duarte dijo. “Y tienes que comprometerte a esa acción, aunque el porcentaje de logro era como un dos por ciento”.
Intentar escapar de Cuba no era nada fácil, pero Duarte, a pesar de que fue arrestado tres veces, nunca se dio por vencido y siguió luchando.
“En mi caso, yo quería ser alguien en la vida, no quería ser mediocre. Quería ser un arquitecto. No pude continuar mi carrera en Cuba por el sistema. Entonces no tenía opción más que salir de Cuba”, Duarte dijo. “Tengo que salir de aquí no importa cómo, lo haré”.
Para una persona como Duarte, todas las experiencias que tuvo en la prisión, lo que lo mantuvo con esperanzas fue su gran fe en Dios.
“Yo soy una persona que siempre tiene a Dios a su lado”, Duarte dijo. “El Señor me estaba protegiendo”.
Duarte empezó a contemplar los posibles resultados de intentar escaparse y pensó “Si me capturaban otra vez, pues me escaparía otra vez”.
Un día que pensó que nunca llegaría, Duarte fue liberado de la prisión por causa de la intervención del gobierno americano. “Era una negociación entre el presidente Jimmy Carter y el régimen Castro…Yo fui liberado en el quinto grupo de 500 hombres”.
Aunque este fue un día que Duarte tanto anhelaba, no se sentía tal como él pensaba que seria.
“Estaba feliz, pero estaba molesto que no lo pude lograr yo solo”, Duarte dijo.
“Dos semanas después ya estaba trabajando. Menos de dos meses después ya tenía mi propio apartamento, y nueve años después ya tengo mi propio negocio”, Duarte dijo.
Duarte logró lo que siempre quiso, su libertad y una oportunidad para una vida mejor aquí en los estados unidos.
“Estos son los estados unidos es un país donde llegas, como lo hice yo, con mi ropa, ni una moneda en mi bolsa y nada de equipaje, nada, y en nueve años ya tienes tu propio negocio”, Duarte dijo. “Este es, o era, el país de la oportunidad. No es el país de la limosna. Eso es lo que yo creo”.
Una vida como la que tuvo Duarte es algo que marcaría a cualquier persona. Pero depende de cada persona como decide tomar estas vivencias.
“Valió la pena pasar por lo que yo pase, volteo atrás hacia mi pasado y me siento orgulloso”, Duarte dijo.
“La etapa más feliz de mi vida fue cuando me escape por tercera vez del campamento de concentración de Taco Taco, que me vi fuera y todo ese campamento encendido y yo estaba como a unos 100 pies de distancia, observando. Es inexplicable lo feliz que una persona, un preso, se siente cuando se escapa de la prisión”, Duarte dijo. “Otro momento increíblemente feliz de mi vida,  que por supuesto sobrepasa ese, cuando el avión aterrizó en estados unidos”.
El día 10 de Octubre, 1979 fue cuando Duarte llego a Miami Florida, por fin estaba libre.
Cuando Duarte llego a los estados unidos, su mama le entrego una bolsita azul donde estaban todas las cartas que él le había mandado con todo y los sobres originales.
Años después, Duarte empezó a organizar las cartas en unas carpetas y comenzó a leerlas.
Él empezó a recordar todas sus experiencias, y las puso en un libro para compartirlas con todos.
Para conseguir una copia del libro sobre lo que vivió Duarte puede contactarlo al (562) 708-2550 o mandarle un correo electrónico a Ggduarte@msn.com

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