Alberto Obaya left Cuba with three other men in 1970. They fled in a barca — a small boat. As he sat at a wooden table outside Orlando Latin Market, the 66-year-old admitted feeling nervous. A lot happened on that journey.
“Too much happened,” Obaya said, his eyes squinting as he stared ahead. “Eight days and seven nights that were very unpleasant. I don’t want to think about it.”
He said they survived on bread, water and cans of condensed milk. One man almost died along the way.
“I regret it because I left my mother, my father, everybody… to arrive in a country where you don’t know anyone,” he said. “For freedom, in any way.”
One doesn’t live the same when they arrive, Obaya said.
(LISTEN: Obaya speaks in Spanish about leaving Cuba and why he regrets his decision in the below audio clip)
“There’s no affection, there’s no love, there’s nothing,” he said.
He left Cuba for nothing, Obaya said. He blamed his decision on his youth. When you’re young, he added, you do 1,000 stupid things.
Obaya said he regrets leaving, but is afraid to go back.
“I abandoned everything… all the feelings you have, you abandon,” he said. “It’s no longer the same… you’re no longer the same person.”