Raf Polo

April 3, 2024

April 3, 2024

“I was born in Cuba in 1950. I had the typical childhood, went to school, played a lot of baseball because that’s what Cubans like to do.

And my life was pretty good until Castro showed up in 1959. I was eight years old at the time.

In school, suddenly these “barbudos” (bearded revolutionaries) in olive green started showing up, and they would say things like, “Do you pray?” Back then Cuba was probably 95% Catholic.

“Of course we pray, and we go to church with our parents”

“Well, you really don’t need to because under the new Fidelista government, the government gives you everything you need from birth to the grave.”

They’d also say that to be a good citizen, a good little socialist, you had to disclose who was against the government. That could be a friend, a family member, even your parents.

I didn’t really understand, so I asked my parents. They looked at each other and said, “We’ve got to get this kid out of here.”

I left in December 1961 and arrived in Port Chester, NY. I went from an island paradise to the freezing cold, and couldn’t speak a lick of English. Hardest of all, I thought I would never get to see my parents again. 

I had the option to either roll over and become a bum or I could fight and learn as much as I could.

So I decided to fight and learn as much as I could.

And while I couldn’t speak, write, or read English, I can tell you truthfully that I do not remember a day when I couldn’t speak English because I became so immersed in it.

Just before the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 my mother and father were able to get out and we were reunited.

From there, we started at the bottom of the barrel, living off $1.25  in a tenement bill.

But my mom and dad had these three things going for them: a tremendous work ethic, discipline in savings, and a tremendous belief in God. 

That was enough to carry us, and we became part of the great American melting pot. 

I always knew I wanted to join the military. I wanted to give back and thank the country for all it had given my family and my friends. 

And so I joined the Navy and served for a number of years and I went on to serve this country in the CIA.

A lot of Americans don’t realize what a great country this is.

I’ve been everywhere, including the Arctic Circle. And there’s nothing like the United States. I’ve been to France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Peru, Spain, Norway, Belgium, England, and they’re all nice in their own way. 

But there’s nothing like the United States, because the freedoms that we have here, to make something of yourself, to go as far as you can go, are unparalleled. 

That’s why I wanted to give back and serve this country, because it means so much to my family and friends who wouldn’t have had a chance had we stayed in Cuba. Instead, we got the chance to be free.”

Raf Polo
Tucson, AZ

Raf Polo is a Cuban-American, who served for over 30 years in the military and intelligence services. Raf is also an author, having penned “Growing Up American: A Novel” and “Socialism: The Walking Dead”.