DENVER (CBS4) – Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal was sworn in to replace Colorado’s new governor, John Hickenlooper on Tuesday.
Vidal will serve until the end of Hickenlooper’s term in July. There’ll be a ceremonial public inauguration Wednesday morning at the Webb Municipal Office Building.
Vidal has quite a personal story. He was born in Cuba, but his parents sent him to the United States and Vidal wound up in an orphanage in Pueblo.
When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba many parents feared for their children and sent them to the United States. In 1961, 10-year-old Vidal and his two brothers left their comfortable life for the immigration program dubbed “Operation Peter Pan.”
“There were 14,000 children sent unaccompanied, that there were not enough foster homes, so they sent them to orphanages around the country, which was quite distressing to parents I think once they found that out,” Vidal told CBS4’s Brooke Wagner in an exclusive 2008 interview.
The brothers all ended up in Pueblo.
“Arriving at that door and seeing we were at an orphanage was totally devastating,” Vidal said. “The word ‘orphanage’ being close enough to the Spanish word for orphanage that we knew that our fate was we were going to be in an orphanage just like the one that was across the street from our house in Cuba.
“The kids who were in it ran it like ‘Lord of The Flies.’ This violent pecking order where the most violent kids rule, so you were constantly caught between these two different worlds.”
After four years, the Vidal family reunited and settled in Littleton.
“Although I thought we had gone through sheer Hell in the orphanage and survived it, the real problems with our immigration story started after we reunited.”
They faced discrimination, poverty and uncertainty.
All five Vidals enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver and the family rebuilt in a new world.
“The sacrifice that they made was the ultimate act of love that transcends their own faults.”
Vidal emerged from it all a respected public servant whose remarkable story is part of Colorado.