Elizardo Ruiz was raised in a place called La Boca de Mariel, in Cuba. Mariel, located about 25 miles west of Havana, is a place for fishermen.
La Boca de Mariel is where Ruiz holds many memories in the water — on boats, on the beach, beside his father fishing.
“My childhood in Cuba was very good,” the 43-year-old said as he sat on a cardboard box inside Orlando Latin Market. “I like it there, and continue liking it because it’s where you’re born — where your roots are.”
(LISTEN: Ruiz speaks in Spanish about his childhood in the below audio clip)
In 1994, Ruiz settled in the United States. He said he has no complaints about life here in Florida. He still fishes and spends a lot of time out on boats.
“My son looks like he’s going on the same path as me — he loves fishing,” Ruiz said. “This past weekend, we went fishing with my friend, Freddy. It went really well.”
His son, Oscar Ruiz, is 6.
Ruiz paused when asked about the difference between his childhood and his son’s.
“I don’t think there will be a difference because, from what I see, he’s liking almost everything that I liked as a child,” Ruiz said.
One of Ruiz’s fondest memories in Cuba is the day he was surprised with his own fishing license at age 16.
“I went out with my dad to fish and I didn’t know they had given me the license,” Ruiz said. “My dad put it on the floor of the boat and I told him ‘Papi, your license fell’ and he said ‘Bueno, get it for me’ and when I picked it up, I saw it was mine and not his.”
Ruiz’s eyes shone as he remembered that moment. In Cuba, he said it was nearly impossible to get a license so young. His father had pushed until he was able to obtain one for his son.
“There are so many things,” Ruiz said, his voice trailing off as he thought about what he wanted to add. “I have two wonderful children. I have a daughter named Melissa, my son is named Oscarito… they’re two of the greatest things that life has given me.”
(LISTEN: Ruiz speaks in Spanish about one of his fondest memories in Cuba in the below audio clip)