Cuba-born pediatrician talks about his life (video)
Sept. 14, 2013 at 4:14 a.m.
Editor's Note: The Advocate is featuring Hispanics in the Crossroads through Oct. 15 for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Boarding the plane, a 14-year-old Felix Regueira cried, looking back at his family, not knowing if he would ever see them again.
Life changed in a matter of months. Cuba had a new leader, Fidel Castro, and the only hope Regueira's parents had for their son was to send him to America.
That was 47 years ago, and telling the story still makes the now 62-year-old Victoria pediatrician choke up.
America is what made him, he said, and he wants others, specifically the young generation of Hispanics, to know that anything is possible.
"I had to be all by myself," Regueira said, tears rolling down his cheeks as though he had just left Cuba all over again. "My parents had to stay there. My brother, too."
The changes happened so fast, he said. A communist country would not have allowed for him to be all that he could be, and if his parents ever wanted him to succeed, he'd have to leave before he turned 15 and was drafted into the military.
Regueira spent the first couple of weeks in Spain with his uncle until he could move to Florida and live with a foster family.
Soon after that, his mother, father and brother arrived in Florida.
They had to start from scratch, though they had lived comfortably and successfully in Cuba until Castro came in.
"Communism did not allow me to have choices," he said.
These days, Regueira works and operates Victoria Pediatrics and Adolescents at 4304 Retama Circle. He's been in Victoria for 34 years and has no plans to ever leave.
"I love what I do," he said. "There's no place like Victoria. It's a wonderful feeling to help patients. I feel like they're my family, and I hope they feel like I'm family."
Regueira, who never felt held back by his Hispanic descent, said this should never be an excuse to hinder an individual's achievements.
Regueira said he feels the resilience of the Cuban blood and spirit is what makes him push forward.
Regueira's father helped get him into medical school, and Regueira took advantage of student loans while studying at the University of Santiago de Compostela.
After studying, he trained in Richmond, Va., and El Paso. Eventually, he began working for a clinic in Wharton and then came to Victoria when he heard about the need for pediatricians.
The rest really is history, said Regueira, who can't believe that much time has passed.
He even has what he calls "grand patients," or the children of former pediatric patients.
"I have more than 300," he said, laughing.
Nick Strauss qualifies as one of those patients. The 30-year-old Ganado resident has been a patient of Regueira's since he was 8.
Now, his two children, ages 3 and 8, receive that same care.
"He had a big Mickey Mouse watch," Strauss said, laughing. "You would push it, and it would talk to you."
What Strauss loves most about Regueira is his fun personality. It's why his kids now see him.
Marise Dudley was never a patient of Regueira but did meet him as a child when her mother worked at Citizens Medical Center.
The 40-year-old Victoria mother of two now has her children, ages 9 and 12, visit Regueira.
She remembers him dressing up in Halloween costumes and visiting the hospital.
His personality really shined through, and Dudley feels that has to do with his Hispanic culture.
"What he's gone through has really given him an appreciation for life," she said. "We tend to lose that culture here - that nurturing, that hugging. We tend to lose our heritage."
Regueira said he has to laugh and enjoy life.
Life becomes fun and passion-filled when you try your hardest, and that goes for all ethnicities of the young generations, he said.
Regueira worries youth are wanting to live a life in which all is handed to them, and life just does not work that way.
"You have to really push harder in order to make this nation better," he said.