Where did you grow up and where did you go to high school?
I grew up in Havana, Cuba and I went to several different schools there.
When did you come to the US?
I came in 2002. I was forty-two, and I won the visa lottery. I had the opportunity to come to this country. I had to abandon the country, escape the regime and leave my daughters there, because I didn’t have the money to bring them with me. I had to sacrifice myself and do it so I could become a United States citizen and later bring my family here.
What did you like to do in high school?
I loved all sports. I won a silver medal in ping-pong (at school), and I was second base of my town’s baseball team.
What was your favorite subject?
It has always been Spanish and probably physics.
Did you always want to be a Spanish teacher?
I’ve always wanted to be a foreign language teacher. That’s why I taught English in Cuba for 15 years, and now I’m teaching Spanish here.
How different is school in Cuba compared to here?
Sometimes when I hear my students complain about the air-conditioning, I kind of freak out. I know that in Cuba, there is no air-conditioning anywhere, and it’s always too hot. Our air-conditioning was a piece of paper that we used to fan ourselves. The conditions are totally different. The United States gives everyone more opportunities that we don’t have in Cuba.
Do you think classes here are more difficult for students?
I think they’re pretty much the same. While I was in school, the education system wasn’t too bad. Nowadays it’s a mess.
How is life in general different in the United States?
In Cuba, everything is totally different. You have to work your fingers to the bone to be able to afford food and feed your family. You don’t work to go out or for vacations. There are no means of transportation, so you can hardly go anywhere. In America, you don’t have to worry about that, because most people have cars.
So how did you get to and from school in Cuba?
At the school I went to, we slept (in the school), so we barely had to travel. We would stay for fifteen days and then go home for a few days, and the bus would take us. It was difficult because I was thirteen years old, and I would miss my parents a lot. We would even have to work there while we kept up with school.
Do you think that students in the United States take for granted their education opportunities?
Of course. Sometimes they don’t even know what they have in their hands. They don’t know what possibilities the country is giving them. They have a lot of rights, and we don’t have any in Cuba.
What were some jobs you had in Cuba?
I used to be an English teacher. I was also a tourist guide, and I was even a fruit seller.
What’s one surprising fact about yourself?
I fish every single weekend, no matter the weather. Also, when I was in college I had to switch schools, because I protested against the communist system and was expelled.
Nataly Capote-Torres / Chief Copy Editor