Separated by revolution, Cuban family reunites after 60 years apart

Jose Otero Herrera used Facebook, genealogical records to find lost relatives

By Madeleine Wright - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - About 150 members of a Cuban family, many descended from relatives who fled Fidel Castro’s regime, were reunited Saturday at Florida International University in southwest Miami-Dade County.

They lost contact with each other after leaving the island and spreading out all over the world.

"This has been a six-year long project trying to reunify our family since they were separated back in 1961 when the Castro regime took over," said Jose Otero Herrera who organized the family reunion.

The relatives came from many states, including Texas, Tennessee, California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Seven to eight family members came from Cuba, but there were also relatives in attendance from Venezuela, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands, South Korea and Spain.

Herrera said many of the family member lost contact over the years because communication was restricted by the Castro regime. As Cuba has gradually opened up to the world, Herrera saw an opportunity.

"Today is really more of a celebration of our ancestors that couldn't have this opportunity, so we’re doing this to honor them. This reunification now soon after Castro’s death, we’re focusing on renewing and rebuilding our family worldwide," Herrera said.

Herrera said that used Facebook and genealogical records to find various members of the family. He wrote a book about his research and plans to give each family member of copy.

"It was actually a bit like a big jigsaw puzzle. Everybody got involved and we found every single member, which is very rare, because you have a family with close to over 400 members,” Herrera said.

Family members in Cuba who could not afford to be at the reunion or could not get visas in time appeared via video conference on a large screen in the ballroom.

Maribel Herrera, who was born in Cuba and migrated to the U.S. when she was a child, called the reunion "amazing."

“It’s long overdue. It’s long overdue. My cousin’s been working this for six years. He’s gone back to Cuba getting records, getting pictures,” Maribel Herrrea said.

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