VIDEO: Immigrants hope Gloria Estefan musical shines light on migration

Gloria and Emilio Estefan speak about their new musical. (Carmen Lopez/ Medill)

By Carmen Lopez

Cuba and the United States are currently working on repairing ties, but migration from the communist country has been active for decades.

Some Cuban immigrants are eager to see what will happen to Cubans migrating to the United States now that relations are improving. These changes are also gaining attention as Gloria and Emilio Estefan premiere “On Your Feet,” a musical about their journey to success in the United States. The musical debuts on Tuesday (June 2) at the Oriental Theatre.

Alberto Gonzalez, 46, migrated to Florida from Cuba in 1980 with his family because his father was unhappy with the government.

“It was very challenging coming to a country where we didn’t speak the language,” said Gonzalez, who owns 90 Miles Cuban Café in Chicago.

Early Cuban migration brought highly educated immigrants to the United States. Among those was Rogelio Riera, a retired doctor, who made Chicago his home when the Cuban population in the city was scarce.

“I knew two or three when my family came over,” Riera said. “It was just after Castro took over when the new immigrants from Cuba started coming to Chicago.”

Riera, 95, would frequently travel from Cuba to the United States and opened two clinics before the revolution. The revolution caused Riera to lose his business and flee to the United States.

The embargo began in 1960 and talks to mend relationships had not occurred until 2014.

Hortensia Esquivel, an attorney and Cuban immigrant, says the production will help spark the conversation about Cuban migration to the United States.

“Maybe it will just start the conversation and have people think more about Cuba, its past and what its future will be,” Esquivel said.

“I like to think of myself as crossing over into the restaurant industry,” Gonzalez said about the Estefans’ cross over to American culture.

Esquivel said the conversation would continue to develop as the United States and Cuba discuss their new policy.

According to Gloria and Emilio Estefan, “On Your Feet” will also carry the conversation. “It will open up for a lot of people to understand what Cuba is all about,” Gonzalez said.

Photo at top: Gloria and Emilio Estefan launch their musical in Chicago. (Carmen Lopez/Medill)