Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. No Game to Cuban Refugee

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. No Game to Cuban Refugee

Article excerpt

Alexis Rodriguez watched the other Cubans at the Guantanamo Bay

detainment camps and knew his dreams about America were

different.

Many of his compatriots played dominoes or soccer incessantly.

He studied English.

He sensed that most of the refugees would continue their Cuban

lifestyles in America. They planned to reunite with relatives or

friends in Miami.

Not Rodriguez. When he finally made it to the United States, he

would live in a place where little Spanish is spoken. If he was

moving to America, he said, he would leave Cuba behind.

It's simply a personal difference in how to approach one's new

country, he said.

"I mean, of course I would play dominoes in the camps sometimes

too," he said. "But my mind wasn't always on the game. I would

be thinking about how I would adapt to America."

Rodriguez, 28, was among the last refugees to leave the camps.

After 3-1/2 months in the dusty Guantanamo tent cities, he

boarded a military flight to Miami two weeks ago. The camps

held as many as 50,000 Haitian and Cuban people during their

peak in the fall of 1994.

About 40 Cuban refugees from the camps are living in

Jacksonville, said Russell Bloom, resettlement director for

Lutheran Social Services. He said Rodriguez is similar to many

other Cubans who have moved from the Guantanamo camps to

Jacksonville: young, well-educated, healthy and eager to earn a

living.

Rodriguez is living with a family on Jacksonville's Westside. So

far, he said, Jacksonville seems ideal. It's a good city for

refugees to find a job and an affordable place to live.

Rodriguez says it's more like mainstream U.S.A. than Miami.

"Before I came here, I spent four days in Miami with a friend,"

he said. "Everyone was speaking Spanish. It was like being in

Cuba. …

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