Gloria Estefan is looking back on fleeing Cuba.
During a recent episode of her family’s talk show “Red Table Talk: The Estefans,” the 64-year-old music icon reflected on the harrowing experience and the effect that it had on her family.
The “Turn the Beat Around” singer was born in 1957, just a few years before Fidel Castro’s historic assumption of power in the island nation.
“I left Cuba when I was literally two and a half years old,” she recalled, per Entertainment Tonight. “In May of 1960, I was brought to the U.S. because my father was a police officer for the Cuban government.”
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Estefan said that the night that Castro, who died in 2016, took power in 1959, her father came home with troubling news.
Gloria Estefan revealed that her family fled Cuba when she was only two years old.
(Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
“We’re in trouble, the president just left the country,” he told his wife and Estefan’s mother.
The songstress said that her mother urged her father not to go back to work because he’d be arrested, but he insisted that was his job “to protect the Cuban people.”
Like Estefan’s mother predicted, the singer’s father was jailed, as was his own father.
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“His father, who was a commander in the army, and him were jailed,” the “Vivo” actress said. “They let him go about three, four months later and he told my mother, ‘I have to get you out of Cuba because this is going to get very bad.'”
She added: “They knew who Fidel Castro was, what was coming, because Castro attached himself to communism. My father left Cuba, he went to the U.S. My mother and I came through Pan Am airlines. I have the roundtrip ticket still.”
The star’s husband, musician Emilio Estefan, also shared his own story.
Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio both fled Cuba after Fidel Castro assumed power.
(Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
“I was 11 years old when they came to my house looking for dollars because Castro decided to change the money,” remembered the producer, 68. “They looked around and went to the safe. My dad got nervous and couldn’t open the safe. They blew out the whole wall and found nothing.”
A few years later, the family was preparing to leave the country, which was an emotional time for the future musician.
“I cried leaving Cuba, but my mom said, ‘Don’t cry,'” she said. “One of the hardest things for me, was my grandfather and uncles gave me a photograph and said, ‘You will never see me again.’ I never saw them again.”
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Several years later, the Estefans had found a way to get Emilio’s niece, Lili and her brother out of Cuba.
According to Gloria, Emilio set out on a “20-foot boat” called Popea. The crew, she said, didn’t know “what they were doing” and ran out of gas, spending 10 days lost at sea.
Despite going days without food and water and having a pregnant wife back home, Emilio said the mission was worth it.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan worked to rescue several of his family members from
(Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for LARAS)
“You’ll know when you have kids in the future what you’d do for your family. The only thing we do is try to save our family to be in a free country,” he insisted. However, once he arrived, he was told that his family would not be allowed to return with him.
Six months later, Gloria and Emilio obtained visas that allowed them to take responsibility for their family members.
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“Thank you both, for you [Gloria] letting him go and you [Emilio] risking your life to save mine, my father’s and my brother’s,” Lili said. “I have worked so hard for you guys to be proud of me. For you to know that it was not in vain.”
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Gloria said that their efforts were “of course” not in vain.
“It was the best thing to happen in my life,” Emilio insisted.