BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Cuban native living in South Mississippi is making an emotional plea to help people she says are living like slaves. Maria Vesa said she believes those people who are against lifting the embargo don't realize the extent to which many of the Cuban people are suffering. She said because of the embargo, people are going hungry and it's not the Castro brothers.
Photos remind Vesa, 79, of the life she was forced to leave behind. In 1962, she and her husband fled Cuba for fear of being executed by the government. She was a social worker and her husband a doctor. She said it was known that her family did not support Communism, and they were continuing to read in the newspapers about opponents being executed.
Vesa said she left Cuba with nothing but the clothes on her back and only telling her family of her plans.
"When I said goodbye to my father and my mother, my father said he never will see me again. I said, 'Oh, yes, we will see each other, because the United States is not going to let a communist country to be so close. We are 90 miles from Florida.'"
Vesa said, "He said, 'No, this is too founded in this country.' I never believed my father and I never saw him again."
She and her husband eventually made it to the United States and started a new life. They had two sons. She said she didn't realize just how bad the situation was in her native country until a niece came to visit her in Biloxi.
"When my niece came, she said, 'My goodness. They don't have toilet paper,' when she saw the whole aisle in the grocery store of toilet paper. We take it for granted," said Vesa. "That's the history of the poor people of Cuba. Today, I have prayer that this work out and this will be a light. That the American flag will be a symbol of victory and hope for my people."
Vesa said it's important she acts as a voice for her family and all the others living in hunger and poverty in Cuba. She said hospitals don't have air conditioning and medications are hard to come by. She spoke of a her niece who had to have surgery and was wet with rain because the hospital windows were left open. She said most working people are paid with Cuban money, which she said is practically worthless.
"They are paid with Cuban money which you cannot use to buy goods like meat and cheese and different things. They only take dollars," said Vesa. "So can you imagine if somebody pays you with money that you cannot use. What humiliation. It's like you're not worth it."
Vesa begs people not to let hate for Fidel Castro overcome their compassion for the Cuban people.
"Now I feel the embargo is lifted for the people. Castro has everything he wants. He eats. If he needs surgery he has the best physicians. All the ones that are in government are eating good," said Vesa. "We need to think about those people. We cannot turn our back on them. If the embargo is lifted, they're going to have more medicine. They're going to have more food and that's what I want because I am for the people. In a nutshell, I would tell you the people of Cuba, they are slaves. They are poor."
Vesa told us how one of her nephews is allergic to beans, but the family was forced to feed him beans knowing it would make him sick because they had nothing else to give him. Since then, she has committed to sending money every month to make sure her sister's family doesn't starve, even though one of her nieces is dentist in Cuba.
Vesa said she had a wonderful childhood in Cuba with loving parents and a good education. She and her husband had gone on vacation to the United States and returned to Cuba twice before Castro took over. Then Castro came to power.
"That's so painful to me," Vesa said. "That's painful because I always ate. I always drank. We always celebrated Christmas. We went to church and why this man come with what authority to destroy our families, to destroy everything that we'd done."