Santos Mirabal

Santos Mirabal became a political prisoner in Cuba at 12 years old — the youngest prisoner in the country at the time, he said.

His face looked grim, eyes tired as he stood inside Orlando Latin Market on Saturday.

“You’ve got to live it to know it,” the 60-year-old said about his incarceration, which he said lasted nearly two decades.

He was accused of bringing food to his father in the Escambray Mountains, located in the central area of Cuba. It’s where a rebellion against Fidel Castro’s government was led by a group of local farmers, former Fulgencio Batista soldiers and men like Mirabal’s father, who was an official within Castro’s government but later left.

“He fought for a revolution, not for Communism,” Mirabal said. “So he began to rebel against Castro.”

Mirabal said he was accused of bringing his father food, but that this was never proven.

Never but in Cuba, they accuse you and condemn you with whatever they want,” he said.

Mirabal, who has been living in the United States since 2003, calls it his second country. He said he’s proud to live here.

Cuba, however, remains in his conscious.

“You can never yank Cuba out of your heart. You die Cuban,” Mirabal said. “Our culture, our pueblo… we keep that all in our hearts.”