An Interview with Oscar Boruchin
Owner of Licenciados and 8-9-8 Collection cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97
(continued from page 2)
Boruchin: I had no difficulty because I always had an American visa. I used to come very often to the United States. I would travel here eight to 10 times a year on business or vacation. So I always had a current visa. For me to leave Cuba in 1961 was very easy. I just picked up a ticket and went to the airport and left. There was no problem leaving the country, although sometimes you would be subjected to searches. Because I left the country so often even before leaving for good, I would just go directly to the security office, because I knew they would automatically search me.
CA: What were they looking for?
Boruchin: In my case, money. American money. They wanted to see if I was smuggling money out of the country. But I never did. When I finally did leave, I left alone. My family--my wife, Rosita, and my one-year-old daughter--followed a few days later. You could call it penniless. I had maybe $2,000 in the United States. My in-laws came a few months later and my parents came three years after that.
CA: What did you do when you arrived in Miami? Did you have friends, relatives? How did
Boruchin: I had very few friends. I had nothing to do and very little money. We had an illness in the family at that time and no insurance because I was just a newcomer. So, the little money that I brought in disappeared quickly with doctor bills and stuff like that. I started to drive a taxi, and I was making about $40 a week for a few months.
CA: Forty dollars a week?
Boruchin: I was driving this car 10, 12 hours a day and essentially looking for Cuban fares because I didn't speak English. There was no way I could understand an address in English. I was going to the airport and waiting for the Cuban planes, which used to come two times a day. I was trying to take Cuban passengers. Otherwise, I stayed close to the refugee center in Miami and other places where Cubans would congregate. It was the easiest way for me to communicate and take fares. That's the way I got into the cigar business.
CA: How could you live on $40 a week?
Boruchin: It was 1961, and although $40 a week wasn't too much money, it was maybe the equivalent of $150 a week today. We--my father-in-law, mother-in-law, my wife and me and the baby--were in a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach paying $60 rent. We were making a living. We were struggling. It was a big change, because we had a much nicer life in Cuba. We weren't multimillionaires. But I was doing well there.
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