Margarita Barreras was born in Camaguey, Cuba on May 7, 1929. She was the fourth of six children born to Angela Emilia Balaguer and Armando Olivera Gonzalez. Due to her mother’s poor health and financial difficulties in their family, she was raised by her maternal cousins, Fernando and Corina Recio. As a little girl, Margarita attended a Catholic all-girls’ school in Camaguey and was known to be the recipient of a ruler to the knuckles by one of the Teresian nuns on more than one occasion for her sassy behavior. As a young lady, Margarita acquired a life-long love of music and singing. She would soon become a classically-trained soprano while studying voice at the Conservatory of Havana.
One of the accomplishments she was very proud of was performing at her hometown church Iglesia de la Merced in Camaguey. She performed at social gatherings and religious events throughout Havana and Camaguey until her and her husband, Rafael, emigrated to the United States. At the onset of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Margarita and her husband, Rafael, fled from Castro’s Cuba to the U.S. Although Rafael had never killed or injured anyone while serving as a soldier or being politically active, the communists were determined to kill or imprison anyone who had been part of the Cuban Armed Forces, regardless of how insignificant their role. With only $500 to their name and their clothes in a cardboard suitcase, Margarita and Rafael traveled to Miami as tourists under the guise of a two-week vacation and were not able to bring any of their belongings or family memorabilia. After a few weeks in Miami, they traveled to New Jersey to meet up with a distant relative who offered to help them. Due to the immigration rules of that time, they were required to be out of the country in order to apply for a temporary residency visa and had to cross the border into Canada to await the processing of their immigration paperwork. They endured the cold Canadian winter for several months living on the meager funds they were able to borrow from their relative in order to survive.
Upon obtaining their residency and returning to the U.S., Margarita and Rafael lived in the Union City/West New York area of New Jersey which had a growing population of Cuban exiles and came to be known as Havana on the Hudson. Margarita worked at several of the embroideries that the area was famous for until the birth of her son, Rafael Lucas Barreras, who was born in October of 1964 in Weekhawken, NJ. Although a new mom at the age of 35 and not knowing how to care for a baby, she nonetheless was a very caring and devoted mother.
In 1968, the Barreras family moved to South Florida, first settling in Miami Beach and a few months later, achieving the American Dream of purchasing a home in western Miami-Dade County. Although Mom worked long hours outside the home, she always made time to cook and clean for her family and to be involved in the life of her son.
Margarita was loved and admired everywhere she worked. On one occasion, her coworkers designated “Margarita Barreras Day” and showered her with gifts and accolades. Despite her challenges with the English language, Margarita excelled in retail sales everywhere she worked, but her favorite job was working in the designer handbag department of Saks Fifth Avenue in Dadeland Mall in Miami. Margarita always outsold her coworkers and her supervisors recognized her achievements on many occasions.
In their later years, Margarita and her husband, Rafael, moved to in Central Florida to live with their son and his wife, Kasey, in order to be closer to her beloved “nanacita”; her granddaughter, Aurora. She would always surprise the family with her goofy antics at any given moment, and she never lost her wit and sense of humor. She taught her grandson, Chad, Spanish and they would exchange greetings in Spanish every morning at breakfast. Margarita and Rafael sang for their son and daughter-in-law at the conclusion of their wedding in 2009, to the delight of everyone who attended. Margarita was extremely outgoing and loving to everyone she met and she made many friends because of it.
She leaves a legacy of hard work, happy times, loving family and friends, beautiful singing, and amazing resilience.
A Memorial Service will be held on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at Church in the Son located at 4484 N. John Young Parkway, Orlando with Pastor Dave Taylor, officiating.
There will be a catered reception immediately following.
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