Sentinel Stories: Lourdes Mulligan Came to Call The U.S. Her Beloved Home
Lourdes Mulligan, a Cuban immigrant who came here as a young girl under political asylum, knows firsthand what it is to live without freedom; she lived under Fidel Castro’s oppressive communist government. Now a U.S. citizen, she’s doing everything she can to keep America great and to prevent it from becoming increasingly similar to her native country of Cuba.
Fleeing Cuba: “No Place to Bring Up Children”
In 1961, Lourdes Martinez was just a young girl living in Cuba with her parents, Mario and Carmelina, and her two siblings, an older brother, Mario III, who was born blind, and a younger sister, Maria. Her father was both a dentist and an instructor at the University of Havana working hard to support his family.
In 1959 when Castro came to power, Dr. Martinez, like many other Cubans, was optimistic. But it soon became clear – from the firing squads, secret police, and mass jailings – that life was going to get worse. Dr. Martinez began to store weapons in his house for the Bay of Pigs, a failed attempt and part of a broader effort by the U.S. to unseat the Cuban government through covert operations.
Castro’s militia regularly barged into the Martinez’s home, unwelcome and unannounced, to make searches and question the Martinez family about Dr. Martinez’s contra-revolutionary activities. “My father decided this is no place to bring up children,” Lourdes said. He set out to get his family to the United States and resigned from his position at the university.
He sent Lourdes and Maria, 8 and 6 at the time first, under the auspices of visiting their uncle in Miami. He, his wife and their 11-year old son would follow, having procured a letter from a doctor in the U.S. stating that a new procedure had been developed that might restore his son’s sight.
Before they left, the communist government forced Mario III to be seen by three Cuban physicians and told Dr. Martinez he should go to the Soviet Union instead of the United States for the procedure. Dr. Martinez promised that if the procedure was unsuccessful in the U.S., they would go to the Soviet Union. The government demanded they turn over the keys to their home, Dr. Martinez’s office, and their car. They were also limited to 20 pounds of luggage each and were searched and threatened at the airport. They even took Mrs. Martinez’s pearl necklace, which was an anniversary gift, hidden in her blind son’s back pocket.
Upon leaving, Dr. Martinez knew they would never see their home again.
Newfound Freedoms and New Challenges: “I Didn’t Come Here to Take Freebies”
When they first moved to the U.S., Dr. Martinez was not allowed to practice dentistry. He worked in carpentry and took a number of remedial jobs. The family was scraping by and receiving $100 per month from the government for basic necessities like peanut butter and bread.
He decided, “I didn’t come here to take freebies.” He applied to dental schools and was accepted at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. While in dental school, he worked as a night clerk at a hotel to support his family, so they could have a “decent life.”
After five years of living in the U.S., the Martinez family was finally eligible for residency. They were required to exit the country and go to Ontario, Canada before they could obtain residency and return to the U.S. After another five years, they obtained citizenship.
Loving America and Living Out Her Father’s Legacy
Today Lourdes is actively involved with her local Tea Party, the Republican Party, and Heritage Action. “You people do such good work. I wouldn’t miss an email for the world. I read all of them,” she said. She also worked on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) campaign and continued to look for conservative candidates to support in future elections. Preserving America’s freedom is a motivating force in her life:
I have something to compare it to. I know what it is not to have what everybody here has. We cannot take it for granted because we can lose it. What gets me about this illegal immigration is we’re not letting people in with that love of country that my father instilled in us. What kind of patriotism can you instill in somebody that can do that? Don’t let the culture of this country die. It’s too beautiful. It’s too rich.
Lourdes has an entire room in her house dedicated to the United States, decked out with patriotic mementos she’s collected from cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. She displays the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and philosophical books and literature the Founders read.
“My father was a great mentor and would speak of all the freedoms of living here,” Lourdes said. In fact, Dr. Martinez was awarded the Americanization Medal of Honor by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1986, given to the naturalized citizen that does the most to promote freedom.
Even her brother works and supports himself today, despite being blind. Lourdes is extremely proud:
He could have easily been on the government dole, but dad taught us better than that. He would have been trapped in an institution in Cuba.
Lourdes knows the Gang of Eight’s amnesty bill won’t work because it doesn’t secure the border, it doesn’t stop illegal immigration, and it’s riddled with pork. As a Texan, she added:
Why don’t we let states take control, the border states. They know better than Washington what’s going on on our borders. We’re only trying to enforce the laws that are already on the books, and they won’t even let us do that.
Lourdes recently reread the Declaration of Independence, and looking at the list of grievances, she noted how eerily similar that is to our government today. She said that the steady erosion of freedom is what happened in Cuba; she doesn’t want that to happen here.