Sophomore shares story of her journey to America from Cuba


Taryn Morris

Ciego de Avila, where sophomore Rosali Zaldivar grew up, is a Cuban city located about nine hours away from the capitol city of Havana.

Taryn Morris, Reporter

They had been waiting for three days now. The bone-chilling cold of the building made it impossible for her to relax. Her mom had been taken away for an interview, meanwhile, she waited just next door in the kid’s room. Dreamworks’ “Turbo” played in the background. The air was heavy with anticipation. A creak, and the door swung open, her mom’s familiar face smiling from the doorway. 

“Come on, we’re out”

Rosali Zaldivar, 10,  will see her dad again for the first time in years. She will also be stepping foot on American soil for the first time ever. 

Sophomore Rosali Zaldivar grew up in Ciego de Ávila, Cuba. Her journey from Cuba to Bellaire High School started with a conversation with her dad.

 “He sat me in the bed, and he was like, ‘I’m going to leave Cuba’. I asked how long he was going to leave and he just said I don’t know. It could be from a month to years, we don’t know,” Zaldivar said.

Zaldivar’s father left for Mexico first. Six months later, her mother left too. They took the longer route from Cuba to the U.S. because strained relationships made it easier to go through Mexico. The plan was that Zaldivar’s father would head to America to start working, while her mother stayed in Mexico to gain citizenship, allowing her to claim Zaldivar and get her out of Cuba. After a month, Zaldivar’s mom had citizenship. The process for Zaldibar to leave Cuba, however, was much longer.

“We go to Havana to get approved for the visa to Mexico,” Zaldivar said. “I was so excited, I was going to get to see my dad. And then we got denied,” 

It was on the third try that the visa was approved and Zaldivar could leave Cuba. Finally, she could go see her dad in the U.S. After three days waiting at customs, Zaldivar and her mom were let into America to start their new life in Houston.

It was a year before Zaldivar was able to return to Cuba again, and the family she had left behind.

“When I left, I was mad with my parents. I had grown up my whole life in Cuba and they were taking me away from Cuba,” Zaldivar said, “In my eyes, Cuba was perfect. There was no reason for me to leave. When I got to the US I started seeing the actual news that they don’t show in Cuba, and I kind of realized how bad it actually is. It kind of shocked me when I saw it for the first time, like this is not my Cuba. The streets were torn, everything was old, and the people looked sad” 

Despite her experience, Zaldivar loves Cuba and her family there. The reunion was a tearful one, with almost everyone in the neighborhood coming to welcome her.

“I still remember the first one I saw was my grandmother,” Zaldivar said, “And I just hugged her. She’s smaller than me, so my chin was on her head. I hugged her and she smelled the same. And I was like, oh my god I’m back. It felt like home.”