When the United State and Cuba announced the normalization of relations with Cuba recently, Cuban-Americans rejoiced, including Reynolds senior Tatnia Vielza Fiffe.
“With the new relationship, now we’ll be safe to come to the U.S.,” Vielza Fiffe said.
She left her hometown of Saneti-Spiritus with her family, consisting of sophomore Taidi, mother, father and two other sisters, on May 27, 2013, for Mexico due to religious conflict in the communist government.
“They wanted to kill us because we are Christians,” Vielza Fiffe said.
Once in Mexico, they traveled to the town of Monterrey, where they waited for two hours for their paperwork to be processed. Eventually they were able to enter the country as political refugees, as allowed by an embargo passed by the USA several years ago.
Vielza Fiffe and her family ended up in Winston-Salem due to her father’s job as a pastor at Calvary Baptist Southside. For her and her family, this pilgrimage meant having to adjust to a completely different culture, all while not speaking a word of English.
“Language is completely different here. I didn’t understand anything,” Vielza Fiffe said, “Mrs. Jolly is the one that taught us all the English we know.”
Reynolds offered Vielza Fiffe a very different high school experience than the one she had in Cuba, where teachers rotate from classroom to classroom, and the students stay put. She noted that they arts magnet program, as well as Reynolds’ high level of diversity, helped in her adjustment to American culture.
“Teachers treat you differently. Teachers in Cuba are mean and they don’t care. Here they are helpful and try to make things work for you,” Vielza Fiffe said.
The freedoms that United States citizens enjoy also came as a bit of a shock to Vielza Fiffe: “The communist government controls everything. You can’t do anything without them knowing it.”
Vielza Fiffe intends to continue her education in college, possibly at Liberty University, but is undecided on where.
Editor’s Note: Senior Spotlight stories appeared in the May 2015 print edition of Pine Whispers. Enjoy!