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Days of the Embassy

By Alejandrin

Argelio Del Valle

 

 

 

 

 

 

     I am the author of a book titled “Days of the Embassy” published on June 11 by RJ Gagnon Publishing.  Argelio Del Valle has lived an amazing life. Born ten years before the   Communist revolution in a suburb of Havana, Argelio saw the Cuban revolution through the eyes of a child. Under Castro’s rule, he was indoctrinated into the communist mentality, despising capitalism, and the American way of life. As a young adult, he began to question the communist doctrine after he was denied further education because of his disagreement with the communist doctrine.

 

 

      I am interested in sharing my experience with the American people.  In this story they will learn that not all immigrants come to the USA for economical reasons, some are looking for freedom. My book is also meant as a warning to the people of this country of the danger of Venezuela and other South American countries that are currently leaning towards the communist influence Cuba exercises in this part of the world.  I had appeared in multiple news articles and two television interviews with more scheduled over the next few months. Subjects discussed are, how I escaped from Cuba, black listed for not participating in communist activities and how I got into the Peruvian Embassy with 10,800 others. Surrounded by soldiers, exposed to the elements I had to survive on tree bark and boiled leaves as the only source of food for 19 days. Delirious after so many days without food, I must make a decision surrender or die. I also recount The Mariel Boat Lift, my adaptation to the American Society, and the current political and economic situation in Cuba.

 

Press kit.

 

TV

Talk show on TV WFLX Fox 29 “Eye on South Florida” at 7 am July 14, 28, 2007.

Talk show on WPTV Channel 5 “Dramatic days in the spring of 1980”   August 12th     at 10: am, 6th 7: am and 12: noon.

Talk show on NBC WPTV channel 5 “Hablando con la comunidad”  Enero 11.

Talk show “Enfoque comunitario”  CW TV West Palm Beach  Jan. 7/08.

 

 

Publications:

April 21 “Remembering Mariel” Palm Beach Post (English).

April 27  “Recordando el Mariel” La Palma (Spanish).

May 24 “Memorias Del Mariel” from Atlanta Constitution Spanish news paper Mundo Hispánico.

La Palma “Sueño Americano”  Dec. 13/07.

El Sentinel Enero 13 “Los Días de la Embajada”.

Artículo en Diario Las Ámericas by Ariel Remos.

 

Radio:

Talk show show on WXEL PBS radio 90.7 FM, “Florida Forum” on air Sunday Nov. 4 at 11.00 AM and repeat Monday Nov. 6 at 7.00 PM...

Talk show on Radio Mambí “Ninoska en Mambí”

 

Book presentation (English) on Barnes & Noble bookstore on Boynton Beach “Book and Author” Dec. 14, 2007.

 

 

Also you can watch my interviews on the video clips below

 

 

 

Español

 

http://www.wptv.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=4206@wptv.dayport.com

 

 

 

Ingles

 

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/868b99ac5adadd908c877fc4b0b68d93?index=4

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/951b63e4e24dc6b19b0e97b37e4797f8?index=3

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/ff92dd3d4a2eea3592c9e4e1978c36c1?index=2

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/94a02d317ba758a1dc0644a1a85f5567?index=1

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/ee29fb882e12f940bc2090645144b110?index=0

 

 

 

I am available for news conferences and talk shows.

 

 

ISBN: 978-0-9778662-3-6

LCCN : 2007901933

Title: Days of the Embassy

Author: Alejandrin

Publisher: R J Gagnon Publishing

Language: English (Spanish scheduled)

Release date: May 20, 2007

Binding: Perfect

Pages: X, 182

BISAC: BIO006000

Dist: Baker and Taylor, Publisher

List Price: $13.95

 

 

R J Gagnon Publishing

701 Palmetto Street

West Palm Beach , FL 33405Fax: (561) 533-9103

Email: robert@053803.com


  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carta de cineaste español.

 

 

Estimado Señor Del Valle:

 

Aunque la verdad es que, después de leer su libro "Los días de la embajada", que recibí tan amablemente have unas semanas y que ayer acabé de leer, me dan ganas de encabezar este mail con un "Querido Alejandrín".

 

Sobre todo, quería felicitarle, en primer lugar porque su libro me ha ayudado muchísimo para completar enormes lagunas que tenía sobre el fenómeno sociopolítico del exilio del Mariel así como de los sucesos de la Embajada del Perú. Era un libro que necesitaba leer.

 

Por otro lado, comentarle también que su libro es vibrante, directo, personal y periodístico a la vez, alternando las vivencias del protagonista (usted mismo) con los sucesos políticos y el contexto histórico. Realmente ha sido una delicia leer su libro, créame. Lo más importante es que logra hacerse amigo del lector con ese estilo tan directo y sincero sin ninguna floritura lingüística que es muy de agradecer. Su lectura ha sido una experiencia emocionante.

 

En fin, sencillamente felicitarle tanto por el libro como por la historia de superación y búsqueda de libertad que usted ha protagonizado. Mi admiración y respeto.

 

Nosotros llegaremos a Florida sobre la segunda semana del mes de Marzo. El objetivo es entrevistar como sabe, a algunos escritores del Mariel. Pienso que mantener también una entrevista con usted sería muy interesante. Tanto personal como profesionalmente sería un encuentro muy deseado por nosotros. Ojalá que nos veamos. Le escribiré a mi llegada y quizás podamos concretar esa entrevista.

 

 

                                Mi enhorabuena de nuevo y reciba un fuerte abrazo de su lector y amigo

 

 

                                                     Ramón  Luque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books on Human Rights Violations!

Palm Beach Post Publishes news article about Days of the Embassy author, April 21, 2007

 

Twenty seven years ago Alejandrin was starving at the  Peruvian Embassy in Havana, the date was April 21,1980. Alejandrin hadn't eaten in 3 weeks but he was smiling, it was his 30th birthday and his actions had helped start the largest

exodus in American and Cuban history!

 

REMEMBERING MARIEL

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Argelio del Valle had no plan. All his best ideas had failed him. A 29-year-old mechanic, he had dreamed up several elaborate plots to leave Cuba. But something always went wrong. In the worst instance, he and his friends were caught and put under house arrest. So when he took a 40-minute bus ride from his town of El Cotorro to Havana in the spring of 1980, he had no plan. He was only curious.

He had heard there was a ruckus at the Peruvian Embassy in the upscale Miramar neighborhood. Days earlier, a bus loaded with 12 asylum-seeking Cubans crashed a bus through the embassy gates, setting off a frenzy that left one guard dead. That morning, in retaliation, Fidel Castro withdrew police protection. Cubans from all over were heading inside. Del Valle wanted to scope out the scene.

But when his bus got to Havana, del Valle realized he had reached a point of no return. He saw swarms of Cubans in the streets. When the driver stopped the bus two blocks from the embassy, everybody bolted - even the bus driver.

For del Valle, it was the chance he dreamed of. He had felt marginalized for too many years in his homeland because he refused to be a Communist true believer. He says the government blocked his educational opportunities and his aspirations of becoming an engineer and routinely harassed him.

So that day, del Valle and his best friend, Antonio, joined the throngs rushing toward the embassy gates.

"I realized that if I didn't go in at that very minute, I would lose the chance to escape Cuba," recalls del Valle, now 58, a West Palm Beach auto mechanic. "I knew we were risking getting shot or arrested. But in times like that, when you see people marching so heroically, courage is contagious."

It was a day like today, 27 years ago this month. Little did he imagine that he would come to take part in a massive, chaotic exodus that would bring 125,000 Cuban refugees from Port Mariel to South Florida shores. And he could not imagine all the dramatic ways his life would change. But he was a chess player, and he knew he had to make his move.

On a recent night, del Valle sat in his West Palm Beach home and recounted the grueling span of days he spent in the Peruvian Embassy, his voyage to Key West aboard a crammed boat and his first taste of American freedom.

The first roadblock of his journey came in the form of government-sponsored mobs who beat and harassed those trying to enter the embassy.

"I wasn't overly valiant, but I decided I would go through whatever I had to," he says. "The human avalanche was such that I just put my hands on the fence, and it was like I was lifted from the ground and carried over the fence. Behind me, there were people for as far as I could see. It was like an ant hill."

10,800 Cubans at embassy

It was April 4, 1980. Within 48 hours, there would be 10,800 Cubans packed inside the Peruvian Embassy.

Days later, a Time magazine article described the scene this way:

"Some of the fortunate found relief from the tropical sun under the spreading leaves of mango trees in the embassy gardens. But others were overcome by sunstroke and dehydration. Dozens of children lay sprawled on the cool terrazzo floor of the two-story mansion. ... 'There are people in the branches of the trees, on top of the mangled iron gate and even on the roof of the embassy,' wailed one beleaguered Peruvian official. 'There's not enough room for one more person.'"

Del Valle says he had only enough room to stand or crouch in one spot.

"We couldn't walk or do anything else," he says.

The following days were spent with no food or water. Instead of relief, the Cuban government gave them nonstop propaganda.

"They put these blaring loud speakers outside the embassy and terrorized us day and night, saying no country would take us in," he recalls. "Many people started to lose faith. A week into the ordeal, some people left."

Del Valle says there was no water for about eight days. Then, when the water came, there was no food. And when the food came, there wasn't nearly enough.

"They brought in these little boxes of rice and beans. But they only brought 500 of them. They would put one out in front of hundreds of people and start a frenzy," he says.

Because he could never get a grip on one of those little meal boxes, del Valle would spend 19 days without food. He learned some creative ways to stave off hunger.

"We stripped the bark from the trees to make fire. We took some discarded cans from the trash and made little cooking pots," he says.

The refugees took the leaves of the mango and orange trees and boiled them in water.

"The leaves made this green liquid that tasted horrible, but it was something warm in your stomach," he says.

When the Cuban government started to offer "safe conduct" passes for those wishing to leave the embassy, the Peruvian ambassador issued a warning: If you leave here, you do so at your own risk. On the other hand, he could not offer the refugees food or supplies.

"So it was either die of hunger or accept the safe conduct pass. It was an enormous risk and we were very fearful. But after 14 days of not eating, my friend Antonio could no longer get up. So he said he would take the safe conduct pass. He didn't want to die of hunger," del Valle says. "I tried to hold on a little longer."

Saying goodbye

But on April 23, when his hunger-induced hallucinations became too severe, he decided it was time to leave the embassy. Two days earlier, he had turned 30 years old.

After getting processed and told he would be allowed to leave the country by Cuban officials, del Valle went home for a few days to say goodbye to his aging father. It would be the last time they embraced.

"I was already on a blacklist in Cuba. If I had stayed there, what would have become of my life?" says del Valle, who has never returned to the island.

Days later, at Port Mariel, del Valle was placed aboard a severely overloaded 70-foot yacht. He arrived in Key West on the morning of May 4.

Because he was a single man traveling alone and had no family in the United States, he was sent to Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola to wait for a sponsor. It didn't take too long for one to arrive. He was sponsored by a Cuban-American couple in Miami. They had met through mutual friends. Within two weeks of arriving at their home, del Valle had a job and a new life.

But as he took in the widespread Cuban influences in Miami, he also had a revelation:

"I thought to myself, 'If I stay here, I'm going to be 80 years old and still not know English,'" he recalls.

So he called his friend Antonio, who had gone to live with an uncle in Georgia, and asked if he could join him. Days later, he was in Atlanta, sharing a job and an empty apartment with Antonio. They worked as maintenance men for an apartment complex, where they rented an inexpensive place. Gradually, they furnished the apartment with discards left behind by former tenants.

On nights and weekends, del Valle took a gig singing in a trio at a local Mexican restaurant. And this is where his American adventure got even more interesting.

As he sang one night, he caught sight of a young, attractive woman in the restaurant. Her name was Socorro, and he was smitten. He had all kinds of love songs for her.

"Mira que eres linda, que preciosa eres ..."

How beautiful and precious you are.

Peru factors in again

As fate would have it, she was Peruvian. So once again, del Valle, alone in a new world, took refuge in Peru. They were married a year later.

By that time, he was immersed in learning English. He carried around a phrase book everywhere and started taking classes at Georgia State University. Eventually, he would earn a degree in data processing from Oglethorpe University, a private liberal arts college in Atlanta.

He made a living as a mechanic specializing in luxury foreign cars. But after several years of living in the United States, he felt a need to write the story of his final days in Cuba. So he began to write a book he called Days of the Embassy. He wrote it under the name Alejandrin, his childhood nickname. Next month, on the 27th anniversary of his arrival in America, the book will be released by a local, independent publisher.

"I wrote the book because every time I talked to American friends about all the things we went through, they would say, 'That's incredible. I've never heard that before.' That's why I wrote it in English," says del Valle, who moved to Palm Beach County in the 1990s because he and Socorro wanted to be closer to family. Del Valle now has a sister, two brothers, nephews and nieces living in South Florida.

When he talks about the events of spring 1980, del Valle is clearly moved. There are so many memories to process, so many details to relive.

But, as he concludes in his book, he would do it all over again.

"If I had to go through another ordeal like the one I went through to continue living as I do, I would not hesitate. I would do it with even more determination, because now I know what freedom is."

courtesy of Palm Beach Post




 

 

 

 

 

 

Argelio Del Valle

129 1st. Way

West Palm Beach

Florida 33407

H 561 478-7495

Cell 561 315-1506

E-mail adelv7@aol.com

 

 

  

 

Estimado señor Alexis Ardines:

 

 

                                          Como le conté en nuestra conversación telefónica, soy un sobreviviente de la odisea en la Embajada del Perú en la Habana, la primavera de 1980, escribí un libro al respecto “Days of the Embassy” (Los Días de la Embajada) publicado reciamente por  RJ Gagnon Publishing. Pienso que esta publicación quizás le interese, aunque no lo parezca tiene mucha actualidad, porque demuestra lo que le puede suceder a los pueblos de Latinoamérica que han tomado el camino de la izquierda. Lo escribí y publiqué primero en ingles porque deseaba mostrarle al público Americano las atrocidades cometidas por el régimen comunista de Fidel Castro. La versión en español ya está  disponible. He tenido entrevistas para la televisión y prensa en Ingles, también en Español en West Palm Beach, donde resido. En Ingles ha tenido amplia cobertura. Y creo que debo contactar los medios de comunicación hispanos para compartir mis experiencias, especialmente ahora que ha habido un cambio de dictador en Cuba, una burda sucesión familiar que sabemos no le traerá nada nuevo al sufrido pueblo de Cuba. Mi libro es una invitación para los hispanos, principalmente de Centro y Sur América a conocer los horrores del comunismo y como se arriesga la vida por obtener la libertad.  Un libro lleno de aventuras, nostalgias y acción, una novela de la vida real con emociones fuertes. Yo soy un exiliado cubano que creo estar viviendo el sueño americano. Ya está a la venta en todas las librerías hispanas de Miami y en Internet en Amazon, Barness and Noble and Borders. Además el libro ha sido aceptado para todas las escuelas de high schools del condado de Palm Beach y estoy invitado ha hacer presentaciones en las escuelas del condado.

 

Le adjunto el press release, una carta de un cineasta español que leyó el libro y uno de los artículos del Palm Beach Post. Quizás usted no tenga tiempo para leer todo eso, pero con esa información puede tener una idea de lo que trata el libro.

 

Su servidor,   Argelio Del Valle (Alejandrin).

 

 

 

 

Please find the attached press kit related to my story. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days of the Embassy

By Alejandrin

Argelio Del Valle

 

 

 

 

 

 

     I am the author of a book titled “Days of the Embassy” published on June 11 by RJ Gagnon Publishing.  Argelio Del Valle has lived an amazing life. Born ten years before the   Communist revolution in a suburb of Havana, Argelio saw the Cuban revolution through the eyes of a child. Under Castro’s rule, he was indoctrinated into the communist mentality, despising capitalism, and the American way of life. As a young adult, he began to question the communist doctrine after he was denied further education because of his disagreement with the communist doctrine.

 

 

      I am interested in sharing my experience with the American people.  In this story they will learn that not all immigrants come to the USA for economical reasons, some are looking for freedom. My book is also meant as a warning to the people of this country of the danger of Venezuela and other South American countries that are currently leaning towards the communist influence Cuba exercises in this part of the world.  I had appeared in multiple news articles and two television interviews with more scheduled over the next few months. Subjects discussed are, how I escaped from Cuba, black listed for not participating in communist activities and how I got into the Peruvian Embassy with 10,800 others. Surrounded by soldiers, exposed to the elements I had to survive on tree bark and boiled leaves as the only source of food for 19 days. Delirious after so many days without food, I must make a decision surrender or die. I also recount The Mariel Boat Lift, my adaptation to the American Society, and the current political and economic situation in Cuba.

 

Press kit.

 

TV

Talk show on TV WFLX Fox 29 “Eye on South Florida” at 7 am July 14, 28, 2007.

Talk show on WPTV Channel 5 “Dramatic days in the spring of 1980”   August 12th     at 10: am, 6th 7: am and 12: noon.

Talk show on NBC WPTV channel 5 “Hablando con la comunidad”  Enero 11.

Talk show “Enfoque comunitario”  CW TV West Palm Beach  Jan. 7/08.

 

 

Publications:

April 21 “Remembering Mariel” Palm Beach Post (English).

April 27  “Recordando el Mariel” La Palma (Spanish).

May 24 “Memorias Del Mariel” from Atlanta Constitution Spanish news paper Mundo Hispánico.

La Palma “Sueño Americano”  Dec. 13/07.

El Sentinel Enero 13 “Los Días de la Embajada”.

Artículo en Diario Las Ámericas by Ariel Remos.

 

Radio:

Talk show show on WXEL PBS radio 90.7 FM, “Florida Forum” on air Sunday Nov. 4 at 11.00 AM and repeat Monday Nov. 6 at 7.00 PM...

Talk show on Radio Mambí “Ninoska en Mambí”

 

Book presentation (English) on Barnes & Noble bookstore on Boynton Beach “Book and Author” Dec. 14, 2007.

 

 

Also you can watch my interviews on the video clips below

 

 

 

Español

 

http://www.wptv.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=4206@wptv.dayport.com

 

 

 

Ingles

 

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/868b99ac5adadd908c877fc4b0b68d93?index=4

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/951b63e4e24dc6b19b0e97b37e4797f8?index=3

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/ff92dd3d4a2eea3592c9e4e1978c36c1?index=2

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/94a02d317ba758a1dc0644a1a85f5567?index=1

http://uncutvideo.aol.com/users/thedrbob321/ee29fb882e12f940bc2090645144b110?index=0

 

 

 

I am available for news conferences and talk shows.

 

 

ISBN: 978-0-9778662-3-6

LCCN : 2007901933

Title: Days of the Embassy

Author: Alejandrin

Publisher: R J Gagnon Publishing

Language: English (Spanish scheduled)

Release date: May 20, 2007

Binding: Perfect

Pages: X, 182

BISAC: BIO006000

Dist: Baker and Taylor, Publisher

List Price: $13.95

 

 


  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carta de cineaste español.

 

 

Estimado Señor Del Valle:

 

Aunque la verdad es que, después de leer su libro "Los días de la embajada", que recibí tan amablemente hace unas semanas y que ayer acabé de leer, me dan ganas de encabezar este mail con un "Querido Alejandrín".

 

Sobre todo, quería felicitarle, en primer lugar porque su libro me ha ayudado muchísimo para completar enormes lagunas que tenía sobre el fenómeno sociopolítico del exilio del Mariel así como de los sucesos de la Embajada del Perú. Era un libro que necesitaba leer.

 

Por otro lado, comentarle también que su libro es vibrante, directo, personal y periodístico a la vez, alternando las vivencias del protagonista (usted mismo) con los sucesos políticos y el contexto histórico. Realmente ha sido una delicia leer su libro, créame. Lo más importante es que logra hacerse amigo del lector con ese estilo tan directo y sincero sin ninguna floritura lingüística que es muy de agradecer. Su lectura ha sido una experiencia emocionante.

 

En fin, sencillamente felicitarle tanto por el libro como por la historia de superación y búsqueda de libertad que usted ha protagonizado. Mi admiración y respeto.

 

Nosotros llegaremos a Florida sobre la segunda semana del mes de Marzo. El objetivo es entrevistar como sabe, a algunos escritores del Mariel. Pienso que mantener también una entrevista con usted sería muy interesante. Tanto personal como profesionalmente sería un encuentro muy deseado por nosotros. Ojalá que nos veamos. Le escribiré a mi llegada y quizás podamos concretar esa entrevista.

 

 

                                Mi enhorabuena de nuevo y reciba un fuerte abrazo de su lector y amigo

 

 

                                                     Ramón  Luque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books on Human Rights Violations!

Palm Beach Post Publishes news article about Days of the Embassy author, April 21, 2007

 

Twenty seven years ago Alejandrin was starving at the  Peruvian Embassy in Havana, the date was April 21,1980. Alejandrin hadn't eaten in 3 weeks but he was smiling, it was his 30th birthday and his actions had helped start the largest

exodus in American and Cuban history!

 

REMEMBERING MARIEL

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Argelio del Valle had no plan. All his best ideas had failed him. A 29-year-old mechanic, he had dreamed up several elaborate plots to leave Cuba. But something always went wrong. In the worst instance, he and his friends were caught and put under house arrest. So when he took a 40-minute bus ride from his town of El Cotorro to Havana in the spring of 1980, he had no plan. He was only curious.

He had heard there was a ruckus at the Peruvian Embassy in the upscale Miramar neighborhood. Days earlier, a bus loaded with 12 asylum-seeking Cubans crashed a bus through the embassy gates, setting off a frenzy that left one guard dead. That morning, in retaliation, Fidel Castro withdrew police protection. Cubans from all over were heading inside. Del Valle wanted to scope out the scene.

But when his bus got to Havana, del Valle realized he had reached a point of no return. He saw swarms of Cubans in the streets. When the driver stopped the bus two blocks from the embassy, everybody bolted - even the bus driver.

For del Valle, it was the chance he dreamed of. He had felt marginalized for too many years in his homeland because he refused to be a Communist true believer. He says the government blocked his educational opportunities and his aspirations of becoming an engineer and routinely harassed him.

So that day, del Valle and his best friend, Antonio, joined the throngs rushing toward the embassy gates.

"I realized that if I didn't go in at that very minute, I would lose the chance to escape Cuba," recalls del Valle, now 58, a West Palm Beach auto mechanic. "I knew we were risking getting shot or arrested. But in times like that, when you see people marching so heroically, courage is contagious."

It was a day like today, 27 years ago this month. Little did he imagine that he would come to take part in a massive, chaotic exodus that would bring 125,000 Cuban refugees from Port Mariel to South Florida shores. And he could not imagine all the dramatic ways his life would change. But he was a chess player, and he knew he had to make his move.

On a recent night, del Valle sat in his West Palm Beach home and recounted the grueling span of days he spent in the Peruvian Embassy, his voyage to Key West aboard a crammed boat and his first taste of American freedom.

The first roadblock of his journey came in the form of government-sponsored mobs who beat and harassed those trying to enter the embassy.

"I wasn't overly valiant, but I decided I would go through whatever I had to," he says. "The human avalanche was such that I just put my hands on the fence, and it was like I was lifted from the ground and carried over the fence. Behind me, there were people for as far as I could see. It was like an ant hill."

10,800 Cubans at embassy

It was April 4, 1980. Within 48 hours, there would be 10,800 Cubans packed inside the Peruvian Embassy.

Days later, a Time magazine article described the scene this way:

"Some of the fortunate found relief from the tropical sun under the spreading leaves of mango trees in the embassy gardens. But others were overcome by sunstroke and dehydration. Dozens of children lay sprawled on the cool terrazzo floor of the two-story mansion. ... 'There are people in the branches of the trees, on top of the mangled iron gate and even on the roof of the embassy,' wailed one beleaguered Peruvian official. 'There's not enough room for one more person.'"

Del Valle says he had only enough room to stand or crouch in one spot.

"We couldn't walk or do anything else," he says.

The following days were spent with no food or water. Instead of relief, the Cuban government gave them nonstop propaganda.

"They put these blaring loud speakers outside the embassy and terrorized us day and night, saying no country would take us in," he recalls. "Many people started to lose faith. A week into the ordeal, some people left."

Del Valle says there was no water for about eight days. Then, when the water came, there was no food. And when the food came, there wasn't nearly enough.

"They brought in these little boxes of rice and beans. But they only brought 500 of them. They would put one out in front of hundreds of people and start a frenzy," he says.

Because he could never get a grip on one of those little meal boxes, del Valle would spend 19 days without food. He learned some creative ways to stave off hunger.

"We stripped the bark from the trees to make fire. We took some discarded cans from the trash and made little cooking pots," he says.

The refugees took the leaves of the mango and orange trees and boiled them in water.

"The leaves made this green liquid that tasted horrible, but it was something warm in your stomach," he says.

When the Cuban government started to offer "safe conduct" passes for those wishing to leave the embassy, the Peruvian ambassador issued a warning: If you leave here, you do so at your own risk. On the other hand, he could not offer the refugees food or supplies.

"So it was either die of hunger or accept the safe conduct pass. It was an enormous risk and we were very fearful. But after 14 days of not eating, my friend Antonio could no longer get up. So he said he would take the safe conduct pass. He didn't want to die of hunger," del Valle says. "I tried to hold on a little longer."

Saying goodbye

But on April 23, when his hunger-induced hallucinations became too severe, he decided it was time to leave the embassy. Two days earlier, he had turned 30 years old.

After getting processed and told he would be allowed to leave the country by Cuban officials, del Valle went home for a few days to say goodbye to his aging father. It would be the last time they embraced.

"I was already on a blacklist in Cuba. If I had stayed there, what would have become of my life?" says del Valle, who has never returned to the island.

Days later, at Port Mariel, del Valle was placed aboard a severely overloaded 70-foot yacht. He arrived in Key West on the morning of May 4.

Because he was a single man traveling alone and had no family in the United States, he was sent to Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola to wait for a sponsor. It didn't take too long for one to arrive. He was sponsored by a Cuban-American couple in Miami. They had met through mutual friends. Within two weeks of arriving at their home, del Valle had a job and a new life.

But as he took in the widespread Cuban influences in Miami, he also had a revelation:

"I thought to myself, 'If I stay here, I'm going to be 80 years old and still not know English,'" he recalls.

So he called his friend Antonio, who had gone to live with an uncle in Georgia, and asked if he could join him. Days later, he was in Atlanta, sharing a job and an empty apartment with Antonio. They worked as maintenance men for an apartment complex, where they rented an inexpensive place. Gradually, they furnished the apartment with discards left behind by former tenants.

On nights and weekends, del Valle took a gig singing in a trio at a local Mexican restaurant. And this is where his American adventure got even more interesting.

As he sang one night, he caught sight of a young, attractive woman in the restaurant. Her name was Socorro, and he was smitten. He had all kinds of love songs for her.

"Mira que eres linda, que preciosa eres ..."

How beautiful and precious you are.

Peru factors in again

As fate would have it, she was Peruvian. So once again, del Valle, alone in a new world, took refuge in Peru. They were married a year later.

By that time, he was immersed in learning English. He carried around a phrase book everywhere and started taking classes at Georgia State University. Eventually, he would earn a degree in data processing from Oglethorpe University, a private liberal arts college in Atlanta.

He made a living as a mechanic specializing in luxury foreign cars. But after several years of living in the United States, he felt a need to write the story of his final days in Cuba. So he began to write a book he called Days of the Embassy. He wrote it under the name Alejandrin, his childhood nickname. Next month, on the 27th anniversary of his arrival in America, the book will be released by a local, independent publisher.

"I wrote the book because every time I talked to American friends about all the things we went through, they would say, 'That's incredible. I've never heard that before.' That's why I wrote it in English," says del Valle, who moved to Palm Beach County in the 1990s because he and Socorro wanted to be closer to family. Del Valle now has a sister, two brothers, nephews and nieces living in South Florida.

When he talks about the events of spring 1980, del Valle is clearly moved. There are so many memories to process, so many details to relive.

But, as he concludes in his book, he would do it all over again.

"If I had to go through another ordeal like the one I went through to continue living as I do, I would not hesitate. I would do it with even more determination, because now I know what freedom is."

courtesy of Palm Beach Post