A family legacy: Armando Codina is shaping and building his future with the encouragement of his daughter Ana.

Author:Menard, Valerie
Position:Interview
 
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Rags to riches stories abound in the United States. That's the dividend of having an American dream that says anyone can succeed with hard work, desire, and a little luck. But the riches to rags to riches stories are more rare. Armando Codina, executive chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, in Miami, experienced a similar path on his way to success.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

During the Cuban Revolution, many citizens came to the U.S. as exiles, at times leaving their families behind. The son of a successful politician, Codina knew nothing but privilege, even though his parents divorced when he was only a year old. As he describes it to Voices of Change reporter Thomas Z. Thornton: "I was kind of a wild kid who had no worries. I had motorcycles. I had horses ... I never paid attention to anything other than having a great time."

But his father's work made him a political target, ultimately forcing him into exile to Miami. While Codina and his mother were left behind in Cuba, he visited his father in Miami, and at one point, his father returned to Cuba. But one Christmas, Codina remembers overhearing a conversation between his parents where his father declared that the country had made a great mistake supporting Fidel Castro, a Communist, and that his father would have to return to exile in Miami.

His mother also chose to leave Cuba, so during the Pedro Pan exodus of unattended juveniles, she sent her 14-year-old son north. In 1961, Codina joined the almost 15,000 children who came with fake visa wavers to the U.S. He landed in New Jersey, initially at a camp, and was then transferred to an orphanage.

In this interview with Latino Leaders publisher Jorge Ferraez, Codina shares how his mother took meticulous care outfitting her young son with two tailor-made suits of finely woven wool, and shirts embroidered with his initials. Even the tailor questioned her choice, but his mom was adamant. For his part, Codina was unfazed about the move, initially.

"My father had always talked of sending me to summer camp to the States to learn English, so I thought of it as an adventure," he shares. "But when they transferred me to an orphanage, I was worried. I couldn't speak English, but I knew what the word orfanato meant in Spanish. I was confused because I had a mother and a father and I knew they had not abandoned me."

The first night there was not so easy. He heard the other children crying at night for their mothers. However, his conviction...

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