Updated: Dec 22, 2021
On July 17, 1959, in a joint resolution, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States enacted Public Law 86-90 that provided for the designation of the third week of July as Captive Nations Week. This observance is to raise public awareness about oppressed communist nations across the world.
During the Cold War, a captive nation was any nation under communist rule, primarily Soviet rule. Even though the Soviet Empire no longer exists, there are still many oppressed nations around the world today such as China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba.
To get a personal perspective about Captive Nations Week, The Crossroads Chronicle reached out to Luis Machado, who was born July 17, 1961 in the Provence of Santa Clara Cuba to the late Luis and Dalia Machado.
In 1959, Fidel Castro led an armed revolt and overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista and assumed power as dictator of Cuba. In 1964, Machado’s father decided to leave Cuba for the U.S., so he filed to leave Cuba. His family had to wait seven years after his father filed to leave, so it was 1971 when they came to America. Luis was 10-years-old.
You had to have a family member here in the U.S. or friend to sponsor you here. The Cubans had a refugee center set up in Miami for any Cuban who came in and needed clothes, contact family member or friends, maybe even given enough money for bus fair or taxi. You could stay there for a couple weeks until arrangements were made with family or friends. Churches helped in this effort, and this is how his parents received the gospel of Christ.
Most Cubans remained in Miami, which had the largest concentration of Cubans in the U.S., but Machado and his family went to Union City, New Jersey, where Luis had an aunt and uncle. He said it was important to get a job as soon as possible because when they left Cuba, they only were allowed to take the clothes they were wearing.
Fidel Castro and his government took everything else, including their house and his father’s business. His father was placed in a concentration camp after he filed to come to the United States for three years after Castro assumed power. Prior to Castro assuming power, American companies, fueled by the sale of sugar cane from Cuba, such as Hershey and Coca-Cola were very successful there. When Castro became dictator, the companies abandoned their factories. Luis remembered while he was still in Cuba getting in line at the store to get their months worth of rations. He would be able to get the food for the month, and he was allowed two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes for the year. Because it was not enough to make it through the month, his father would have to barter to get them through the month.
Before the Machados came to America, Luis’s father painted this picture of America to give them hope. He told them they would see food, cars, and bikes they had never seen before, so they were amazed at the the houses and all the other things he had told him about America. His father began working as a cleaner, cleaning houses and businesses.
Luis and his sister had to learn English, which took about four years, and he became the interpreter for his family. He attended one of the first English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes in 1971 while in New Jersey to learn English; now he works for ESOL as an interpreter for Emanuel County School System. (Talk about coming full circle!) In school, his teacher realized that his speech was better than his writing, so she would always let him give his book reports orally. In high school, his counselor placed him in technical classes, where he learned mechanical drawing, cooking, woodworking, sewing, printing, and carpentry. When he graduated, he worked in all of those trades, which he still enjoys today. He worked in the high rises in New York, where he was able to use his skills in all trades. He remembers that he always had Converse sneakers, but he wanted Pro Keds. His father would tell him if he wanted those, he would have to get a job, so at 11-years-old, he began delivering newspapers. He would begin at 4:30 a.m. and come home at 6:30 a.m. and get ready for school. At 15, Machado began as a salesman at Gentlemen’s Quarterly selling men’s suits.
In 1985, Machado went to Italy, and he loved the small villages and the slower pace of life, so when he came back to America, he decided to find a place like that. He ended up in Houston, where he began a ministry and a business translating and painting. One day while painting, the man he was working for had an Intel 286 computer he was going to throw away, so the man gave it to Machado. He upgraded it and used it to start a business doing immigration work and taxes for Hispanics.
After three years, his father told him that a church was looking for a paster in Augusta, so he moved there. It wasn’t what he expected, so Machado asked where the Hispanics were located; he was told Vidalia. He rented a U-Haul, loaded up his belongings and family, and drove toward Vidalia. He stopped at Harvey’s in Swainsboro and bought a Forest-Blade, where he found a house for rent in Twin City for $300, which happened to be all the money Machado had at the time. He has been in Emanuel County ever since that move.
His parents passed away from COVID in 2020 and 2021. Machado credits his parents for his outlook on life as well as the success he has experienced and his faith in God. He is proud of his Cuban heritage, but he is more proud to be an American.
When asked what he sees happening in America as compared to his experiences in Cuba, Machado indicated he sees some threats to basic rights we enjoy as Americans and believes we should all remain vigilant to what our government is doing so we don’t one day wake up and have become a socialist country.
A Wall Street Journal report recently shared that every year since 1959, American presidents have issued a Captive Nations proclamation condemning Soviet and Communist imperialism and repression. The proclamation is issued shortly before the week itself and has featured robust language. It went on to say, “We’re told that White House aides this year have been floating the idea of ditching the Captive Nations phrase in favor of ‘Free and Open Societies Week.’”
Captive Nations Week this year is being observed July 18-24.