Coral Gables attorney and judicial applicant Ivonne Cuesta got a national audience talking about her experience as a 7-year-old girl during the Mariel boatlift in 1980.
Cuesta appeared on "The Takeaway," a talk show that airs at 9 a.m. weekdays on Miami’s WLRN-FM.
About 125,000 Cubans floated north to the United States in a span of five months when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro opened up the Mariel harbor and said any Cubans who wanted to leave could go.
Cuesta, a former Miami-Dade assistant public defender, said she couldn’t fathom what was going on at age 7.
"All I knew I was being stripped and taken from my home, from my school, from friends into a new world, a new life where I couldn’t even speak the language," she said.
Cuesta said she is a prime example of assimilation in America.
"We had nothing. We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us," she said. "I found not only freedom but professional success in a country that really opened up our arms to us," the attorney said. "I never would have found that success in Cuba."
Cuesta, a Florida lawyer since 2002, is vying to replace County Judge Amy Karan, who resigned in February due to illness.
If appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, she would be the first person from the Mariel boatlift to become a judge in Miami.