After emigrating to the United States from Cuba more than 50 years ago, Federico Garcia ’69 worked hard and made sacrifices, paving the way for the economics graduate to realize his dream of owning his own business that is nearing its fourth decade.
August 1, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Federico Garcia ’69 still clearly remembers the day he came to the United States from Cuba as a teenager in April 1962. One of more than 14,000 children who arrived in the early 1960s, Garcia’s emigration was part of Operation Peter Pan, a program that brought children to the United States to protect them from potential indoctrination by the Cuban government.
Spearheaded by the Catholic Welfare Bureau, the program put teenagers, like Garcia, in temporary camps. Garcia’s parents arrived in the United States the following year, leaving everything behind. Life was not easy, and although the family faced discrimination, Garcia remembers that no one ever complained.
"We feel lucky to live in this country," said Garcia. "We love this country."
After relocating with his family to New Haven, Garcia got his first job working in housekeeping at the Hospital of Saint Raphael – now Yale New Haven Hospital – with his father and his brother. After attending Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Garcia enrolled at then New Haven College – now the University of New Haven – with a full scholarship.
"I enjoyed my classes, and I was impressed with my professors," said Garcia, an economics major. "The University enabled me to build an excellent foundation."
As full-time student, Garcia also worked three jobs to support his parents, who had sacrificed so much to enable their sons to have a better life in America. Garcia worked in the printing department of First New Haven National Bank after classes, at Macy’s at night, and at Hertz on weekends. He gave the money he earned to his parents, which eventually helped them to buy a house in Miami. He also developed a work ethic and a sense of pride in his work that would serve him for the rest of his life.
"One thing I’m proud of was that the management at Macy’s selected me to take the payroll to the store in New York," said Garcia. "That was a great responsibility. If something happened to that bag, people wouldn’t get paid."
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Garcia moved to Miami and soon began working as an accountant. After serving in the U.S. Army and graduating with his master’s degree from the University of Miami, he worked at Deloitte and at Arthur Young – now Ernst & Young.
"Learn as much as you can. The more you learn, the more you can help others. The more you can achieve."Federico Garcia ’69
But Garcia wanted more, and he aspired to start his own company, which he did in 1985. Beginning in a 600-square-foot office, Garcia grew his business, adding staff and moving to larger locations. The firm joined with a larger accounting firm last year, and Caballero, Fierman, Llerena & Garcia, LLP now employs more than 20 people and serves clients that include city governments.
"I believe we’ve achieved the American Dream," said Garcia. "It wasn’t always easy, but we worked hard, and we were dedicated. We’re proud that we came to this country with nothing – no money – and we’ve achieved what everyone dreams of achieving."
Now a partner at the firm with his wife, Isa, Garcia takes great pride in his achievements, his hard work, and his self-sufficiency. He and Isa have a son, a daughter, and two granddaughters.
"What I’ve learned – and what I told my kids – is that there’s no limit to what you can attain," said Garcia. "Learn as much as you can. The more you learn, the more you can help others. The more you can achieve."