Immigrant Who Fled Communist Cuba: ‘If You Lose This Place You’ll Have Nowhere Else To Go’

Immigrant Who Fled Communist Cuba: ‘If You Lose This Place You’ll Have Nowhere Else To Go’

Max Alvarez left Fidel Castro’s Cuba alone as a 13-year-old in 1961. Now, he’s warning Americans not to give up on the freest country on earth.

“What is happening in our backyard today, I experienced as an 11-year-old,” said Alvarez in a video that’s since accumulated 2.6 million views on Twitter. “I remember vividly all the promises that a guy named Castro gave, and how 99 percent of the people swallowed the pill.”

Alvarez told his story during a roundtable discussion with President Trump on Friday about supporting the people in Venezuela and Cuba without condoning their leaders’ regimes. He compared the socialism that’s increasingly popular among the American left to Castro’s communism. “Socialism is nothing but communism during Halloween,” he said.

“I remember all the promises that we hear today about free education, and free healthcare, and free land,” he added. “But my God…no freedom.”

Alvarez fled Cuba as part of Operation Pedro Pan, a Catholic Welfare Bureau program that helped over 14,000 children leave communist Cuba in the early 1960s. “I wasn’t even coming here,” he says; he was originally on his way to meet his brother in Spain. When his brother died, Alvarez stayed in the United States. Now, “almost 60 years later, I’m sitting next to the president of the United States talking about the American dream.”

After arriving in the U.S. as a teenager, Alvarez went to Florida State University and worked for Citgo before buying a few failing gas stations and starting his own business. Now, he’s the owner of Sunshine Gas Distributors, with hundreds of gas stations in Florida.

There’s “no other country in the world where you can start a business from the trunk of your car,” he says, “and within a very few years — with hard work, commitment, and all the core values that we learn from this very culture of ours — we can become…those people who make the next generation better than the one before.”

Alvarez is adamant that coming to the United States was the “greatest blessing I ever had.”

“We were provided an opportunity. This is what makes our country great,” he says. “They didn’t give me free nothing — they gave me the opportunity, that is the most valuable thing in the world.”

After a few years, his parents were able to leave Cuba and join him in South Florida. It wasn’t the first time Alvarez’s father had fled communism; he’d come to Cuba from Spain at age 18 to escape the spread of communism there. Alvarez says his father only had a sixth-grade education, “but I think he was the greatest philosopher I ever met.”

“He used to tell us how lucky he was because he was able to come from Spain to Cuba, and then he came from Cuba to the United States,” Alvarez says. He concludes his story by sharing the advice his father gave him when he graduated college. “Don’t lose this place because you’ll never be as lucky as me,” his father warned him. “If you lose this place, you’ll have no place to go.”

Listen to Alvarez’s story here:

 

Elle Reynolds is an intern at the Federalist, and a senior at Patrick Henry College studying government and journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter at @_etreynolds.
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