A&M grads assist family’s story of migration from Cuba
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 22:03
“First they took baseball, then they took freedom” — the opening words to the book “Cubanos in Wisconsin” by Silvio Canto Jr., the story of Fidel Castro’s communist takeover of Cuba and the migration to the U.S. that followed.
While the story begins in Cuba and ends in Wisconsin, the Canto family’s pursuit of happiness led them to Texas A&M University. Two of Silvio’s sons graduated from A&M and both worked on the book with him, making its publication a family — and an Aggie — affair.
“It was a great honor for me to do a book about my family,” Silvio said. “Even more so because two of my sons played huge roles in getting it published.”
“Cubanos in Wisconsin” follows the story of Silvio Jr. and his family living in 1960s Cuba. He recounts the slow-but-steady depreciation of freedom and standard of living under Castro’s regime. Banks were nationalized and free enterprise stifled, religion was pushed underground and oppression rose, Silvio said. These changes prompted the Canto family, along with 300,000 other Cuban immigrants, to leave Cuba in the 1960s in hopes of a better future in the U.S.
Gabriel Canto, Class of 2011, graduated with a bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and Silvio Canto, Class of 2010, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting and a master’s in finance. Both sons said the message is important for all readers, including A&M students.
Gabriel participated in several creative writing projects during his four years at A&M’s campus. He said his writing background enabled him to develop the book further.
“My grandfather’s selfless service to my family was nothing short of phenomenal,” Gabriel said. “He went from a banker in Cuba, to a janitor in the U.S., and eventually worked his way back to become a banker again, this time in the U.S.”
The brothers want to use the book’s story to spread its values and to prompt discussion on unresolved immigration issues.
“‘Cubanos in Wisconsin’ is a quick and easy read about a point in history that many people don’t know much about,” Silvio said. “People usually associate Cuba only with the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs, but [with this book] you really start to know how evil it is to have your civil liberties taken away.”
Gabriel said he hopes the book’s impact will affect legislative proceedings.
“Immigration is a big topic today but a lot of people simply don’t realize the wide variety of backgrounds that are present,” Gabriel said. “I hope [my family’s story] contributes to the immigration policy discussion.”