EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a two part series that shares the experiences of Norman resident Eli Naser, a Cuban immigrant who survived the Castro regime’s rise to power in Cuba
Written by Linda Card
How and when did you make it to the U.S.?
‘In 1960 my immediate family applied to immigrate. In 1966 my Mother and I were finally allowed to leave. We had the clothes we wore and a couple of changes in a suitcase. Nothing else, no photos, no jewelry, nothing. My Father was not allowed to leave then but joined us the next year. We would stay in Spain five months while our paperwork was completed. I arrived in Spain weighing 104 lbs. at age 13.
Besides the freedom and the food, the language came as quite a shock. We spoke Cuban Spanish which I soon learned was not the same as Spanish in Spain. We could understand each other but the misunderstandings were comical.”
“My earliest years in the U.S were not that happy. Besides not knowing the language, I spent most of the time fighting in school and residing in the principal’s office as I resisted gangs of my fellow Cuban refugees trying to get me to join them and to do drugs. I took a lot of bullying because we were poor and my clothing came from thrift stores. My friends were all American. They still are.”
Eli worked in the mailroom of the Miami Herald newspaper while attending Florida International University graduating in 1975 with a Bachelors’ Degree in Criminal Justice. The Viet Nam War and the draft were a harsh reality. Eli entered the Marine Corps under a deferred draft, successfully completed basic training twice, then Officer’s Candidate School. His high marksmanship scores got him a place in the Marine sniper school under the tutelage of legendary sniper Carlos “White feather” Hathcock of El Dorado. That chance encounter would later play a part in his decision to move to Arkansas.
“I loved the Corps. but my parents were concerned for my welfare as well as their own. Since I am their only child, there would be no one to care for them if something happened to me, They had sacrificed so much for me, I could not refuse, I returned to civilian life.”
He later applied to several different law enforcement and fire departments, along with the post office. The post office called first. He also completed EMT training during this time.
Years later, while attending post office training in Norman Oklahoma, he decided to visit Arkansas.
“Gunny Hathcock was from Arkansas, but I could not remember what town. I did remember he said he hunted in the Ouachita region and really liked it. I opened a map looking for the Ouachita region, I was in Norman, Oklahoma, I spied a little town called Norman Arkansas. I rented a car, paid a visit and liked what I saw. A few years later, I brought Sharon through and she liked it too. We purchased our house in 2006 and moved here permanently in 2012 when I retired from the post office.
Would you like to visit Cuba and do you still have relatives there?
“If it is ever free, I would love to show Sharon the places I grew up, but only then. I do not trust communism or socialism. I vote in every election I can because the Cuban people have not been able to vote in a real election since 1959.”
Do you ever got to talk to your relatives in Cuba?
“Yes. Two uncles and an aunt remained behind with 3 of my cousins. My aunt and two or my cousins became “revolutionaries” and would not speak to us after most of the family applied to leave the island. My two uncles mainly stayed because they did not want to lose everything they had worked for all of their lives. Both uncles and my aunt are now deceased, which leaves my two female cousins who are in their 70’s left down there. We have since made peace with each other, by the grace of God. I talk to one of them on the phone every 3 months or so.”
Eli, you have been so candid and gracious to answer questions and share photos, Is there anything else you would like to say?
.” I hope that you will mention in your article about the Cuban floating truck, the Rafter’s Museum in Miami, and the Brothers to the Rescue incident. They are all testament to the fact that freedom is more important than life itself and that socialism has never worked and will never work. Capitalism may not be perfect, since mankind does not know how to rule itself, but at least it best approaches the Biblical axiom that a person has a right to enjoy the fruits of his/her labors. When you take money from one person, to give to another, that is not freedom. That is tyranny. Thomas Jefferson famously said that when the government is afraid of the people, that is democracy. When the people are afraid of the government, that is tyranny.”
“Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The evil ones have gotten as far as they have with our unwitting cooperation. We were too busy watching football to raise our voices against Roe v. Wade. With our silence, with our video games, with our addiction to pornography, entertainment and sports, we have allowed this to happen. Actors and athletes get paid big bucks to keep us entertained so we do not realize we are getting royally screwed. Meanwhile the farmer that feeds all of us has to eke out a living. What is wrong with this picture?
President Trump is not perfect, America is not perfect, none of us are perfect. Only God is perfect. I have heard people say how awful this country is and how bad this last year has been. I see our young people embracing socialism and communism as a better form of government. They do not know what bad is. Countries like Cuba build walls to keep their people in. The U,S, has to build walls to keep people out.
I see every day the lack of gratitude for all the blessings that God has bestowed on this great nation, lack of gratitude for America, and for our families and friends. I don’t know if it is already too late. All I can say is what I say to both my Methodist congregations and to all my friends and family: Stick close to the Lord. Time is short and the days are dark and evil. Don’t let the Bridegroom catch you with not enough oil for your lamps.
God bless America! “
Interviewers notes. Information for this article is excerpted from both an oral and written interview. Eli also shared photos of his life. The raw interview plus the photos and additional related information will be available on the Norman News Facebook page.
The Rafter’s museum is located in Miami and there are several sites on the internet including cubanrafters.com which have photographs of some of the many rafts Cubans have built to successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully reach the freedom of the United States.
The story of the floating truck, as well as a story about a white fan Eli related will also be available.
The Brothers to the Rescue incident concerned an airplane belonging to two brothers who would fly over the rafters checking on them. If the rafters appeared to be in good shape, they would guide them toward shore. If the rafters appeared to be in trouble, the plane would alert the Coast Guard to their location. That plane was shot down by a Russian MIG and both occupants died in the crash. That full story is on the internet.