Enrique’s Uncle met him at the door when he came home from school. “What are you crying about?” he asked. Enrique was only 7 years old. He had not yet learned it was not smart to tell at home what went on in school. But Enrique’s uncle was persistent. Enrique told him some kid had been bullying him, calling him names and just wouldn’t let him alone.
“Do you know where he lives?” his Uncle asked.
“We’re going to his house,” said his uncle.
Enrique’s family had emigrated from Cuba the previous year. After overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro was bringing communism to the island. Enrique’s father had to leave in a hurry for publicly criticizing the new regime. Within two months the rest of the family followed. Enrique’s home in Cuba was a good place for a kid. He lived in a big house near the ocean with a loving father and mother, three brothers, and lots of other family close by. The small apartment where he now lived in North Miami was a place where his family hoped to move from as soon as possible. So his father worked multiple jobs and his mother became a full-time student while working a full-time job. His Uncle Alfredo was often the only adult at home. He was a leather worker and his workshop was in the apartment.
Enrique’s uncle was small and so skinny, Enrique could put his arms all the way around him. When they knocked on the bully’s door, Enrique had to translate for his uncle could not speak English. “What do I say?” a scared to death Enrique asked. His uncle commanded, “You tell him his son bullied you—tell him!”
The door was opened by a man over six feet tall who weighed about 220 pounds. Enrique told him, “My uncle made me come here because your son bullied me and called me names.” His uncle said to Enrique, “Tell him we are here because I want his son to come outside. You and he are going to fight. And if he refuses to let his son fight you, then I will fight him.”
The father called to his son and asked him if this was true. The boy was about a year older than Enrique and quite a bit bigger. He admitted to bullying Enrique and calling him names. He was delighted to comply with the uncle’s demand. Immediately he pummeled Enrique as Enrique put his arms around his face to protect himself. “Toughen up,” shouted his Uncle. “You’ve got to fight him. Bring your arms down. Now hit him.” To the boy’s surprise, Enrique was able to get in a couple of solid hits and the boy started to cry. His dad yelled at him, “What are you doing, you sissy. You can’t quit.” Enrique and the boy tussled for several minutes. Then the boy landed a blow square on Enrique’s nose. Blood ran. Tears filled his eyes. His whole face swelled up. Enrique stumbled backwards and almost passed out. Both men said, “Enough,” each in their own language. Enrique and the boy were told to shake hands. Then the boy’s father reached over to shake hands with Enrique’s uncle.
“The kid never bothered me again,” said Enrique. “And the word got out. Things cooled off. There were still incidents at school, but it taught me something about people, and about myself and how to get on in life.”