Gladys “Mimi” Campaneria

June 19, 2019 Off By CBS

On Tuesday, I lost my best friend, my sister, father, daughter, confidant, and mother. 

Gladys Campaneria (known by most as Mimi), was born on September 9, 1928. She was a poet and a writer.

My love for her runs so deep and strong – I have loved her more than how a son could love a mother. See, Mimi adopted me when I was only a few months old and gave me the love that my birth mother could not. I think that proves the type of woman that she was. 

Since Fidel Castro announced communism in Cuba, she became a champion against the regime, and eventually was able to come to the United States and lived in Miami for some time. However, Mimi being the fighter she always risked everything and returned to Cuba to fight for what she believed in and help her fellow Cubans overtake the communist regime that had been threatening to take hold of everything they had. She risked her life numerous times by taking illegal medications hidden within her garments to soldiers that were fighting in the mountains against Castro’s regime. 

Many years later, she decided she didn’t want me grow up in a communist environment, and when I was seven years old, we tried to escape in a small raft boat by Mariel Bay. But, it was an ambush! Fidel’s soldiers were waiting for us. They waited until we got close enough to the raft boat before they started firing their guns at us. I was so scared that I started running. Mimi ran after me, pushed me to the ground and threw herself on top of me. I’ll never forget how the bullets hit the sand all around us as if it were rain. That is an experience that I will never forget – not only because I was a scared little boy, but because the love she had for me was so strong that she was willing to risk her life for mine. The result of that ambush was easy for me compared to what she endured – first she was put in prison for four years, then had to endure labor camp for two more years. After those years, she was never the same again. They stole a piece of her that I never saw again. 

Many years later, while we lived in New York and New Jersey, she wrote for many hispanic news papers. Her fight against communism never ended. She received many accolades as a writer and high recognitions as an activist against communism. Until her very last days, she spoke fiercely, and fought the war against communist regime that still stands today the best way she knew how – with her words, love and passion. 

From Mimi, I learned that you can never give up on your dreams. I used the strength she instilled in me throughout my career as a professional ballet dancer, and it got me further than I could have ever imagined. It’s because of her, that I achieved my biggest dreams.

Mimi’s Memorial Mass will be held on Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary, NC.