For Jose Manuel Moreno Cueva, his time as a young man in Cuba was desagradable — unpleasant.
“In Cuba we lost our youth,” the 73-year-old said as he sat inside Orlando Latin Market on Wednesday afternoon.
The man known as simply Cueva — like many against Fidel Castro’s regime — became a political prisoner in the 60s. He recalled being 19 and sleeping on the floor for nine months at one jail and participating in a hunger strike with others.
Cueva spoke fast and with an almost ease as he listed the prisons he said he was sent to throughout that period.
“They transferred us to Trinidad (a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus — in central Cuba). We spent some time in the jail there and that’s where we formed another huelga teque — as we say — we rebelled there and were then transferred to Havana,” Cueva said. “In Havana, they placed us in the jail in Marianao and from there, they took out a group and transferred us to Arroyo Arenas.”
Cueva said he spent a total of 28 years going from jail to jail. He later worked as a laborer and even as a bodega employee.
(LISTEN: Cueva speaks in Spanish about freedom of expression in the U.S. and how it compares to Cuba in the below audio clip)
He later decided he wanted to come to the United States.
“Life here, for me, has been filled with joy. First, because I find that I have never wanted to be oppressed by anything,” Cueva said. “I really like licentiousness — freedom and licentiousness aren’t the same, but I like both.”
Cueva laughed with delight as he spoke about this sense of freedom.
“I raise my ideas, realize them and I can carry them out,” he said, slapping his hands on his lap for emphasis. “Why? Because no one gets in my way. Over there, you can’t do that… over there, your dreams are killed.”