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Former Cuban political prisoner living American dream as U.S. and Cuba relations improve

One Father's Journey from Castro's Killing Fields
Posted at 4:39 PM, Mar 03, 2017

It's been said cooking can bring people together, but for Pepe Diaz, the kitchen saved his life.

"It was easier to be in the kitchen than it was to be out in the fields," says Thania Clevener-Diaz, Pepe's daughter who is a Tampa Civil Rights Attorney and is now opening the family's new restaurant in Lutz.

Pepe first learned to cook while he was a political prisoner in Cuba. He spent five years in that concentration camp. Five years cooking and dreaming of a way out.

Thania Clevener, "Did you ever think you were going to get out, no he didn't think so," as she translates for her father.

Pepe fled to Spain and then made his way to Florida where he met his wife. It was an instant attraction.

"The first time, love at first sight ," says Mrs. Diaz

They opened their first family restaurant in Miami, and then expanded to Key West.

"It's a continuation of their dream into our generation now," says Clevener-Diaz.

Their new restaurant just opened in Lutz, It's called "La Yuma" , which is Cuban code for going to the U.S.

"Instead of saying United States we say "vaya a la yuma" going to la yuma," says Clevener-Diaz.

Their daughter and her husband now continuing the family journey.

"We are telling a story of not only Cuban path to freedom but also out story," she says.

A pathway to freedom born inside a political prison. The American dream, cooked up in a kitchen.

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