The Cuban American Family Album

Cuban Amer Fam Alb - smallThe Cuban American Family Album

1995, Oxford University Press



Excerpt from The Cuban American Family Album:

Hamlet Arias was eight years old when his grandmother brought him to the United States on the Mariel boatlift.

“It was night. All that I remember, because I was so small, was my grandmother grabbing me by the arm, grabbing some of my clothes, putting them in a bag with some papers, and running out the door…..

“We were the last people to get on this boat…It was just a fishing boat, built to hold about fifty people, but not for traveling across the ocean. There were many more people on this boat on that trip. Holding onto the sails, on top of the roof of the cabin, holding onto the sides of the boat….I remember hearing a lot of gunfire, a lot of chasing, boats sinking. I saw about six or seven boats sink. I saw a person eaten by a shark…

“In the daytime my grandmother stood over me the whole time so that I wouldn’t get sunburned. I was seasick. All we had to eat were crackers and water. At night, it was pitch black. All you could see was the moon and its reflection…By the second night, we arrived at Miami.”


Reviewed by Miami HeraldEl Herald, San Francisco Chronicle
Selected by the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen-Age