The United States furthered their agreement with Cuba by providing air transportation to Miami for 3,000 to 4,000 Cuban emigrants per month. In 1969, that permission was granted to Loly and Alex. The militia men came to their house and allowed them each to select three outfits before boarding up their home- no food, no memorabilia, no permission to sleep in a hotel, nothing. Every aspect of life in Cuba belonged solely to the government. When they arrived at the airport, Alex was seized. “Go!” Alex insisted to his wife and 2 daughters. “I will be on the very next plane.”This time, Loly did not stay. She slept in the airport with her two young daughters, worried and hungry. Yet, she was determined to hold her family together. As the airplane took off at 9 am, Alex waved from outside the runway gates. He would do whatever it took to see his family again.
Loly and her daughters landed in New York City where they initially shared a one-bedroom apartment with her parents. She got right to work building a new life and learning the skills she would need to provide for her girls. Like many Cubans, Loly scraped by with the help of a strong community and periodic, though unpredictable, correspondence with Alex. But after 5 years, the strain felt like too much. She needed her husband and as she lay in bed one night, made the decision to find out how to go back. The very next morning, Loly received a phone call from her sister in law. Alex was on a plane to Spain!
After flying to Spain to retrieve her husband and prove her American Citizenship, Alex still had much to do. Back in the States, he studied to pass the Medical Board and get a new license to practice. He had to start over again. But together, after all they had experienced, the couple felt they could conquer any challenge.
The story of the Garriga Family is a story filled with the lessons most needed in a world that can feel challenging and overwhelming. Loly documented their story in her book, Strides of Destiny (published 2011). The words tell a story of discipline, of putting one foot in front of the other, of always just focusing on the next right step. The sentences convey the never-ending hope of freedom and the stories demonstrate the importance of community and family. But the greatest of these is love. Loly and Alex share a love story that, literally, took them across oceans. Today, the Garrigas live in Lakeland, Florida where Alex practiced General Medicine for over 40 years. The few pictures and memorabilia they were able to rescue from Cuba decorate their beautiful home but the memory of their reunion is forever burned into their hearts.