Fighting for Democracy (03:15)
Nelson Figueras organizes photos from his childhood in Cuba and America; he now lives in New York. In the 1950s, his mother was a nurse, and father worked to overthrow Dictator Fulgencio Batista. He recalls soldiers invading his home, looking for weapons.
A Father's Last Request (03:00)
On January 1st, 1959, populace backed revolutionaries put Castro in power; Figueras describes reuniting with his father after two years. The new leader embraced Communism and Figuera's father was executed for working against the state. His mother promised to get the children out of the country to prevent their indoctrination.
Mass Exodus (03:49)
By the late 1970s, trade was nationalized and international sanctions impoverished Cubans; public dissent was crushed. Juan Diaz discusses growing up poor under the oppressive communist regime; he faced involuntary military service. In April 1980, his family joined 10,000 others storming the Peruvian embassy for asylum; the conditions and situation internationally embarrassed Fidel Castro.
Escape Route (04:10)
Figueras describes being on government watch after his father's execution; between 1960 and 1962, Operation Pedro Pan allowed children to enter the United States without documentation. He and his brother were sent, but his mother was not permitted. They stayed at a Catholic Church operated children's refugee camp in Florida City.
Cuban Exiles (04:12)
Castro battled embarrassment of Peruvian embassy asylum seekers by inviting them to leave through Mariel Port; Diaz recalls seeing American boats waiting to pick up refugees. His family is put on a shrimping boat, the Sun Hippie; he describes Captain Hooper and his kindnesses.
Temporary Family (04:31)
Figueras and his brother were flown to Yakima, Washington to stay with a foster family; he was happy to be places with Spanish speakers who treated them like sons. They were reunited with their mother in 1965; he wants to find and thank his temporary guardians.
Harrowing Passage to the U.S. (06:09)
Diaz describes Cuban officials detaining rescue boats, dangerously overloading them; on May 21st, 1980, Sun Hippie embarks at night, in stormy conditions. He discusses the precarious journey, and Captain Hooper ushering refugees to safety below deck. Diaz became a fire chief in California, dedicated to saving lives; he wishes to locate his rescuer.
Maltos House (04:01)
Figueras flies to Yakima to find his foster parents; he locates their home from a photo, but they no longer occupy it. The current residents give a tour of the home he once lived in.
Searching for Captain Hooper (04:17)
Diaz returns to Key West, searching for his hero at the Ingham Maritime Museum; he meets with Bill Grosscup. They find record of the Sun Hippie arriving on May 22nd, but no references to his hero. Further inquiries produce a lead, a friend that worked with him during the Mariel Boatlift.
Finding Lilia Maltos (03:04)
Figueras searches for the Maltos with Sue Ericksen at Yakima Genealogical Society; she finds their marriage certificate and Joel's death certificate. He speaks with Father Thomas Bunnell at Saint Joseph's Church; the family still attends mass there, and a reunion is arranged.
Remembering the Captain (03:59)
Diaz meets George Gardner, a work friend of Hooper; they discuss his kindhearted nature. Roughly five years after the Mariel Boatlift, the hero fell sick and died. The associate located one of his daughters, arranging a meeting.
Reconnecting With Lost Family (04:14)
See Figueras reunite with Lilia Maltos; he thanks her, relaying what her kindness meant to him. His foster siblings arrive; they share pictures and refer to him as a brother.
Honoring a Hero (03:52)
Diaz visits Hooper's four daughters. He relays how he saved lives of all on board; they had not heard the story. They discuss what a good father he was; all express gratitude to Diaz.
Credits: Escape from Cuba (00:29)
Credits: Escape from Cuba
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