Cuban national and Washington Court House resident San Tiago Lopez was the guest speaker Thursday at the Fayette County Tea Party meeting.
Lopez has been in the United States since Dec. 22, 2001, but before he was finally allowed access to this country, he spent much of his time in jail for trying to escape Cuba.
One thing that Lopez still has not been able to understand is how Americans are unhappy with the government and their possessions. “It’s just crazy to me. You have everything, you can get as much food as you need, you are free. It’s just. I spent a lot of time not understanding and being shocked,” Lopez said during the meeting at the Center for Economic Development.
In Cuba, Lopez was a physical therapist. He learned of the outside world from his patients and his father’s stories of the time before the Castro brothers took control.
Lopez was asked by an audience member how long it took for the conditions in Cuba to deteriorate.
“When Castro came in, he took from the rich and said they didn’t need all of that, so I will give it to you. We all thought this was a great thing because now the rich were like us and we had more. But then…then he took from us and gave to the poorer people. Soon everyone was the same. We earned $10 a day. You can’t live on that, but that’s what they gave us,” he said.
Lopez got accustomed to being in jail. Every time he tried to escape to Florida — only a 90 mile boat ride — he was captured and thrown in jail. “If you even thought of leaving…they’d come get you,” he said.
Lopez spent much of his time discussing the conditions in the Cuban jails and how prisoners were treated. “They could just kill you. Because nobody on the outside would find out. This one man, they beat him and kicked him. When we got up in the morning and walked to breakfast we kicked something — thinking it was a small rock…it was his teeth.”
Lopez now works at YUSA and has been there for the past nine years.
The Fayette County Tea Party meets every first and third Thursday of the month in the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Building at 7 p.m.