Every October, archives across the United States celebrate Archives Month. This year, the State Archives of Florida is focusing on how archives change lives. Join us throughout the month as we share stories about the impact the Archives has had on staff and patrons like you!
As our blogs this month have demonstrated, sometimes you can find more in the Archives than you anticipated. Recently, the State Archives received an email from Orestes Ortega III giving names to previously unidentified faces—his grandparents and aunts. After seeing the photograph on Florida Memory, he wanted to share with us the history of his family’s journey to the United States.
Writing about the photograph’s significance to him, Orestes says, “My grandmother showed me this photograph when I was a boy and it is well-known in our family. It is something of a point of pride for my grandparents. This image has always been so important to me. Their decision to leave in such crazy circumstances, a pregnant wife, two small girls, and a rickety little boat, has always inspired me. I am here today because of the moment in that photograph.”
This photo shows the family of Cuban mechanic Orestes Ortega, Sr. (wearing a hat) waiting in a Coast Guard boat with ex-Castro captain Armando Rodriguez (seated back). Ortega’s oldest daughter, Martiza (far left holding a doll), his wife, Aracelia (who is five months pregnant with the couple’s son, Orestes Ortega, Jr.), and youngest daughter, Meca (center) joined him on a covert nighttime escape from the rising political instability of mid-century Cuba. Ortega and Rodriguez hid a small boat, Jocuma (pictured), near a dock and waited for the right time to leave the island. One night in April 1961, Ortega decided to take his chances. With Rodriguez’s help, Ortega packed his young family and some supplies into the small boat before setting off for the United States. After two days at sea, the Ortega family landed at an American-owned oil platform before being transported to South Florida to start their lives in the U.S. This image was captured on April 11, 1961.
What have you discovered in the Archives? Share your story with us in the comments below. If you come across an unidentified person you recognize in our collection, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the image.