CUBAN EXILE MEMORIES: JOURNEYS OF COURAGE AND RESILIENCE IN THE PURSUIT OF FREEDOM is a collection of narratives about the Cuban exile experience of the mid-20th century. It is a testament to the courage, perseverance, and determination of people whose lives were upended quickly, dramatically, and irrevocably by a political revolution.

Cover for Cuban Exile Memories book

These anonymized experiences tell of the sometimes-improbable circumstances that led a generation to leave their homeland and everything they knew to come to a foreign country and start their lives again from scratch.

This book is for anyone interested in stories of courage and the pursuit of freedom. The memories have been collected from anecdotes passed down over generations, interviews, and personal recollections. Many of the stories are in the speaker’s own words, which sometimes revert to Spanish, and these are accompanied by English-language translations. Each story is told by a different exile sharing his or her own memory.

The main thread that runs through the book is the chaos and confusion of the communist takeover in Cuba and the subsequent exodus of a significant portion of the island’s population. Also covered are the struggles and sacrifices the exiles made during the early years of arrival in their new countries as well as sometimes humorous recollections of cultural clashes while attempting to adapt.

Lastly, this book is a declaration of unabashed appreciation to the United States, the country that gave so many the opportunity to pursue their destinies in peace and freedom.


“With searing insight, Cuban-American, Talek Nantes powerfully portrays the tragedy of Cuba and the triumph of all those Cubans who, though they fled their homeland, never abandoned the spirit, the sensibility or the passion of their beloved and bedeviled island.” —Anthony DePalma, award winning author, The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times. 


“Heart-wrenching. Cuban Exile Memories is a well-written, gripping and tightly crafted collection of vignettes. These personal stories are a window into what Cuba became after Castro stole the revolution. It reveals the chaos and confusion that followed, and the struggles Cubans faced after arriving in the U.S.

Cuban Exile Memories is a celebration of life, and a thank you card full of gratitude to the United States.”  —Daria Rosa Nasca, author, Lights Out: A Cuban Memoir of Betrayal and Survival.  


“In this touching compilation, the author’s short but poignant segments tell myriad memories of escape, separations, disillusion, and fierce hope. The book celebrates Cuban exiles as they remain unsinkable, ebullient, and ferociously positive in their resolve to make their lives in the United States a success.

I am a Cuban exile, and the book sparked a magnetic pull and a deep kinship with the people in these narratives…because they are my story. Those of us who arrived the early 1960s share an unbreakable bond no matter where the winds of change have scattered us across this great land.”   —Miriam Isidro, author, Cuban Exile: A Young Girl’s Story  


“In Cuban Exile Memories, Cuban Americans share their stories of escape from the oppression of Castro’s Cuba to a new life in the United States. We hear their individual voices of hope and fear as they leave their homes and step courageously into a new life.  It is their story, but for many Americans whose stories began with the immigrant experience, it is our story too.  I highly recommend this lovely book.” —Ann Hamer, award winning author of Writing Your Life: The Ultimate Guide to Telling Your Story


“An extraordinary selection of personal, heartfelt accounts that capture moments in time of the Cuban diaspora. Extremely powerful!” –Betty Viamontes, award-winning author of Waiting on Zapote Street
“Talek Nantes’ work, Cuban Exile Memories, gives us a compilation of true stories told by courageous Cubans who lost everything to escape communism under Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. I am reminded of the courage of my father who got his family out of Cuba in 1961, and prompted me to honor him with Killing My Cuba.
The author is to be commended for telling the world these heartbreaking stories.” L&L Meier, authors of Killing My Cuba.
Excerpts from Part One- When I Left Cuba 
“It took us about 10 years to leave Cuba. My father, a doctor, was sent to a military hospital in the countryside far from home in punishment for wanting to leave the country. He told us that one day a patient was brought to him with a machete gash in his foot. The machete had almost gone through the entire front part of the foot, which was hanging by some skin and ligaments. The man was screaming in pain.
There was no other option but to amputate the man’s foot, but they didn’t have the necessary equipment.  They drove my father and the man to the nearest big town with a substantial medical department.
My father told me that the man’s foot only needed to be partially amputated, but the only prosthetic the medical department had was one for a foot from the ankle down. So they amputated the man’s foot from the ankle, unnecessarily, just so the only available prosthetic would fit!”
Excerpts from Part Two – Struggles on Arrival 
“When we left Cuba, we had to leave my grandparents and dog, Rocky, behind. Four years later it looked like my grandparents were able to leave but my grandfather refused to go unless the dog got out first. So, with everything else my struggling exiled family had to worry about in our transition to a new country, we resolved to get Rocky out of Cuba and into New York City.
My grandparents had heard that it was cold in New York in the winter and were worried it would be too cold for Rocky, so my grandmother cut up her sofa to make Rocky a winter coat.
It was just before Christmas when we were advised Rocky would be arriving at JFK. We gathered what little money we had and took a taxi to the airport. We were so excited we shared our story with the taxi driver. The driver was an Eastern European Jew who told us that he, too, was driven from his country after WWII and had to emigrate to the United States. When we arrived, he refused to charge us for the fare.
Rocky, the dog
When  Rocky was let out of his carrier after his long journey, he was so happy to see us he peed on all our shoes. We all cried and hugged him with his little blue and white stripped sofa coat.  A few months later, my grandparents arrived.”
Excerpt from Part Three: Cultural Confusion
“And then there was that large collection of white powder in boxes that you never knew what it was for. Was it baking powder, flour, batter, sugar, baker’s sugar? How did one distinguish among them without knowing how to read the labels? The pictures helped sometimes, but a picture of a fish on a can of tuna was just as likely to be cat food as tuna.”
The deeply personal stories in this book give us a glimpse of the power of the human spirit to transcend an upheaval like the Cuban Revolution and exile to a new and foreign country. The stories celebrate the people who lived them; their strength, their courage, their sense of humanity, and even their sense of humor in the face of enormous obstacles.
Cuban Exile Memories is available on Amazon and select book stores.
Cover for Cuban Exile Memories book



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Talek Nantes

This blog was created to inspire your travels and to explore experiences in fascinating locations. What you will find are thoughts on how to immerse yourself in local culture, food, history and people. On your way to these adventures I hope to provide you with useful information to help you get there. Come see the world with me!

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