My Suitcase Full of Hope: The Story of the Cuban Freedom Flights
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Wednesday, June 3 at 8:00 p.m. and
Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. on 2HD.

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This new one-hour documentary narrated by Willy Chirino revisits one of the most important chapters in the history of the Cuban exile. The Freedom Flights brought several hundred thousand refugees to the shores of the United States, permanently altering the lives of those who left behind their families, their homes and their cultural identities for a chance to live in freedom. This program tells their stories.

By the mid 1960s Cubans within the island had become disgruntled with Fidel Castro's revolution. Since the end of the Missile Crisis in 1962, Cubans had not been allowed to migrate to the United States. In September of 1965, sensing the rising discontent, Castro exalted the "malcontents who were not happy with the triumphs of the revolution" to leave the country. In a month's time, over three thousand Cubans had taken the Cuban leader up on his offer. Fearing an uncontrollable migration from the island, President Lyndon Johnson's administration proposed an alternate procedure. The proposal involved daily chartered flights to Miami. At that point, the already difficult social and economic conditions worsened for those wanting to leave the country. Between 1965 and 1973 over 265,000 Cubans arrived in the United States. My Suitcase Full of Hope: The Story of the Cuban Freedom Flights captures recollections of the hardships and humiliations they experienced while waiting to leave.

The program concludes with the emotional yet insightful stories of those who endured the difficulties of starting a new life in a new land. Rolando Llanes, now 49, recalls the difficult decision his parents made. "As a father of three, I thank my parents every day. They forfeited many of their goals and aspirations, not to mention leaving behind family members and their country to give me a better life."

Cathartic to some, enlightening to others and touching to all, My Suitcase Full of Hope: The Story of the Cuban Freedom Flights approaches this historic event from the personal and human point of view. The filmmaker, Joe Cardona, who also directed Adios Patria and Café con Leche, weaves a historical tapestry laden with the drama associated with leaving behind one's homeland.

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