Skip to main content


After marrying at 16, a Cuban immigrant strikes out on her own in a foreign land

When Marta Liriano was 9, Fidel Castro and the communist party took control in Cuba. As upper-middle-class landowners before the revolution, her family lost much of its property and faced a hostile regime. When Marta was just 15, she met an older man who offered her a way to get out of the country. Marta visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with her daughter, Marta Garcia, to share what happened when she started wanting to become her own person.

Marta (daughter): So after you met my father, you’re able to flee the country?

Marta (mother): Yes, but he decided to leave first. I came to Miami,  2 o’clock in the morning.

Marta (daughter):  What was Miami like?

Marta (mother): I don’t like to remember that because when I came, nobody was waiting for me. So I didn’t know what to do, so I called a taxi cab to take me to the address, and there was your father.  He didn’t go to the airport because he was sleeping.

Marta Liriano was later joined in Miami by her parents. Eventually she had two daughters. But as she got older, she longed for something more out of life.

Marta (mother):Your father married a 16-year-old girl. When I grew older, I started thinking. So he couldn’t understand why, me, a simple girl, wanted to go to school, you know, do something productive for me … He used to tell me, ‘There's a jungle out there.’ But you know what? I wanted to know the jungle, by myself.

To find out what happened next, listen to the audio above.

Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.



Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.