Two of my brothers were sent to fight in Angola when I was a boy. After years of risking their lives for a strange cause, they came back to Cuba to find out that their mother and little brother were living under worse conditions than before they left. They learned that the promise of going to another country to fight for the “big, beautiful future of socialism” was just a big lie.

In Cuba, if you dare to yell something true — like “Fidel and Raul are dictators!” — you could spend many years in prison. Dictatorship is another price we had to pay for free education and free health care.

I desperately needed something more than the promises of free education and free health care. I knew that I needed freedom — freedom to speak my mind and vote my conscience. It was worth the risk of being eaten by sharks than to continue living a life with no purpose and no freedom.

On August 16, 1994, I decided to get into a boat with 20 other Cubans in search of a future.