Ileana Armengol

As Interviewed by Logan Abounader, March 13, 2018

Ileana Armengol: In Her Own Words


My name is Ileana Piedra Armengol. I was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. when I was 13 years old.

I was raised in a family where we discussed the political situation, the political views, and I since very early on, I was always involved in those discussions and Castro had taken over in 1959 when I was 12, and I knew what was going on. And at one point in early 1960 my dad got us all -- my siblings and I together, and he explained why he had decided to leave the country.

In Cuba I remember being afraid to say anything against any of the policies of the government. We were always talking low voice, making sure none of the neighbors were listening. Everybody was afraid to say thing. It was a completely different situation, and that's one of the main reasons that my dad felt that it was not a democracy, it was turning into a communist country. Castro had explicitly said that it was a Marxist-Leninist country, that he wanted to turn it into that, and we were not in agreement with what that implied, which meant that there was going to be no private property, no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and based on that I think my parents made the decision to come.

[An Additional Excerpt]

We could not tell anyone that we were leaving. And that meant, they said to us, that means your closest friends. No one is no one. So for me, at 13, to walk out of my house and not tell my closest friend, that was like a sister to me, that I was leaving the country, was very difficult. All I could think to do was get a box, put my school uniform in there, some of my school books, some of my little treasure stuff. And write a letter... in which I would explain to her the reason for not saying goodbye. And then I, I closed the box. And left it on the top of the table, in the living room, so whoever came into the house, who was supposed to be another relative, would deliver it to her. And it did get to her. So she was happy to at least know that I had a reason. And when we left, we were the first ones from our family.