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Juan Carlos Dias Labrada



Juan Carlos grew up in Cuba and came to the United States in 2006. He shares his story of growing up and observing life in his country, where life is based on survival. Juan Carlos was excited to come to the United States and find a job, but leaving was bittersweet because his parents remained in Cuba.




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My name is Juan Carlos Diaz Labrada. I was born in Cuba, in Havana. And my childhood I would say was very vey good, thanks to my parents. There was a lot of need, and there is still a lot of need. Mainly, a person just works to eat. The salaries in Cuba are so low that a person makers 10 pesos a day, and a pound of cooking oil costs 30 pesos. The only give you 5 pounds of rice a month, 5 eggs a month and a biscuit a day. Not only that, there is no freedom of expression. You cannot own your own business, it is mandatory to work for the government, and what the government pays is not even enough for you to eat. That’s why I left my country, in search of freedom of expression and where you get paid fairly and can live decently. I remember it like it’s happening now. I was very nervous when I was being interviewed. He looked at me through the glass and maybe he noticed how much I wanted to come to the United States. He looked over at my sister and smiled and said “okay”. He asked for my passport and stamped the visa. That for me, was one of the best days of my life. But, happiness is never complete. When it was my parents turn and the officer saw them, and logically, he saw they were elderly, they denied their visa because they were too old, and they might become a public charge in the United States. When we were outside the embassy, the first thing my sister and my mom said was “you go ahead, you go and work, forget about us”. When I came to this country, the only thing I brought were photos of my parents. Nothing else, just the pants that I was wearing, shirt, shoes, and a bag with the pictures of my mom and dad. The main difference I noticed when I came here, from what I left behind to what was in front of me, is respect. I was surprised, I had never seen that before - the respect that people treat others with. For example, they open the door for you that everyone says “hi” and always has a smile. That doesn’t exist in Cuba. In Cuba, respect doesn’t exist. In Cuba, we only have survival. There’s no respect, there’s nothing. Then one day, a year after I came here, they reviewed my sister’s paperwork and noticed she hadn’t left and was still living in Cuba. They asked her why she didn’t leave for the United States when her case had been open for over a year and a half. She said because they didn’t allow my parents to leave, she had to stay and take care of them until they passed away. And when she told the officer that, he thought about it and told her bring in your parents here tomorrow”. My sister brought in my parents, and when the officer saw them, he stamped their visa and said “Welcome, you all can go to the United States”. So my dad was 95 years and my mom 87 when they got their visa. And when they came to this country, this country gave them everything, and they died happy. I thank God every day to be living in this country. To me the American dream is being able to work with fair pay and being able to live peacefully