Northeast Tarrant

Years melt away for long-separated Cuban siblings

When Gerardo Garro fled Cuba in 1959 to escape Fidel Castro’s communist regime, he knew he was saying goodbye to his parents and eight siblings — possibly for the last time.

“When I left Cuba, I left behind my family knowing I might never see them again,” said Garro, 82. “What Castro did was separate the families and destroy a beautiful country.”

As the years passed, Garro and his wife, Haydee, made their home first in Mexico and then in Texas. Their family grew to include three daughters and two sons, and Garro became a high school Spanish teacher in Northeast Tarrant County.

While two brothers and two sisters would immigrate to the United States, all the siblings were never able to reunite until last week, when the brothers and sisters gathered in Keller to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Garro and his wife turned their three-bedroom home into a guesthouse for his brothers Jose Antonio, 73, of Miami, Roberto, 76, of Orlando, Fla., and Emigdio, 72, of Cuba; and his sisters Elsa, 79, of Miami and Zoa, 65, of Miami Gardens.

“We have been together almost a week,” Gerardo Garro said last week. “We have stayed in the house talking. It seems we never have an ending to the conversation. We talk and talk and are having a great time. It’s such a wonderful joy hugging each other, kissing each other.”

The 55 years since they were all together seems like forever in one moment and mere minutes the next.

“Much of our conversation is a remembrance of everything we did during our childhood,” Garro said, adding that those memories are of “good things, not bad things.”

Like Elsa Garro recalling how she had long hair as a child that all her brothers liked to pull.

“I’m happy to remember it now,” she said, eliciting laughs from everyone.

Over the years, Gerardo Garro kept in touch with his parents, brothers and sisters by phone. The years turned into decades, and he had visits with his sisters, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s, and two of his brothers, who came later. Their conversations centered on good tidings, such as new babies, but also the sad news that both parents and three brothers had died.

Garro longed to see his family together again. When his youngest brother came from Cuba recently to visit a sister in Florida, he vowed to make it happen.

“When my brother arrived, I thought it was a great opportunity for all of us to get together,” he said.

Garro’s journey began in Cuba in 1959 when he fled to Mexico, where he was a salesman. He had left behind a good living in Havana, compiling accounting data for General Electric.

On March 27, 1960, his family came to San Antonio, where he worked as a roofer and a janitor.

The family moved to Abilene, where Garro worked as a custodian at Dyess Elementary School. A principal often saw him reading and helped him get a full scholarship to Abilene Christian College, now Abilene Christian University. He graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and business administration.

“My wife worked as a seamstress to help me get my degree,” Garro said, looking lovingly at his spouse. “She helped me all the way.”

He then graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, earning a master’s degree with a major in guidance and counseling and a minor in Spanish and accounting.

Then Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock sent him to Barcelona, Spain, to do missionary work — a calling that lasted 15 years.

When he returned to Texas, Garro settled in Tarrant County. He began the life of an educator, teaching Spanish at Grapevine High School, Carroll High School in Southlake and Richland High School in North Richland Hills. He retired in 2001 after nearly two decades of teaching locally.

He has five children, 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, who are triplets. All five of his children graduated from college.

His yard features an American flag on a 30-foot pole, a nod to his appreciation of the American dream.

“My gratitude to this country is so big,” Garro said. “I owe more to this country than I do my own.”

Emigdio Garro said it was fun to eat turkey and ham on Thanksgiving and celebrate the joyous reunion.

“I am thankful for this possibility to be all together,” he said. “It’s nice to have so many remembrances.”