By S.E. Lewinski*
HAVANA TIMES – Sixteen-year-old Miguel “Mike” Bezos left Cuba in 1962, unknowingly on a path that would lead to fame and fortune. He came to the USA from Cuba wearing a jacket his mother had hand-stitched from cleaning rags. He was a teenager traveling by himself speaking very little English.
The special program Mike arrived on would later be known as Operation Peter Pan, under which some 14,000 Cuban children were sent alone under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Their parents, afraid the children would be victims of indoctrination, were not allowed to join them at the airport which resulted in them being dropped off unaccompanied.
After a forty-five minute flight, a saga commenced that would change the business world with this young man’s courage. The turmoil in Cuba would indirectly lead to a capitalistic endeavor that would rank as one of the most significant global business achievements.
After spending time in a refugee camp in Florida, Mike was sent to Wilmington, Delaware to attend high school. He would later receive a scholarship and complete his degree at the University of Albuquerque. He then spent 32 years with Exxon Mobile.
The 16-year-old boy would become the stepfather of one of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos. In turn, the Bezos family would become early investors in Amazon in 1995, confident that Jeff could pull off his startup business. Jeff left a great job on Wall Street to pursue his dream, just like Mike did, when he had the courage to leave Cuba all alone.
The bottom line, if it was not for Fidel Castro and the turn the Cuban revolution took in its initial years, we may not have Amazon. After graduating from university, Mike met Jaclyn Gise (mother of Jeff), and went down a career path to earn funding that would later be provided to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
“When he came here from Cuba at 16, not only was he all alone, but he only spoke Spanish. His grit, determination, and optimism are inspiring,” said Jeff Bezos about Mike.
The irony in this story is that, on trips from the USA to Cuba to Support the Cuban People (A general license exemption from US embargo restrictions on the island), many travelers these days purchase items available from multiple sources from guess where…Amazon.
*Havana Times guest writer
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