Cynthia Cuebas grew up between two worlds. She lived part-time with her mother in Brooklyn and part-time with extended family in Puerto Rico. Both places were completely different. Brooklyn was small and cramped and grey. She didn’t participate in extracurricular activities and lived in an apartment with her mother who didn’t treat her well. In Puerto Rico, she lived in Bayamón on a farm with her aunt. There, the world was full of color and warmth. There were lots of animals, chickens squawking, and she often got to watch her aunts pick eggs and feed the pigs. “The feeling was wonderful,” she says. “It was a lot of love.”
She remembers hating school in Brooklyn and not wanting to study. Her one, most vivid memory is of ice-skating in Rockefeller Center. Otherwise, most of Cynthia’s memories are of Puerto Rico. There she was known as la nena de la casa and everyone spoiled her. “I was the princess of the house.” In Puerto Rico, she had better grades, as the aunt who raised her there was always on top of her to study. She also took dance classes at school and was bilingual at a very young age. She loved her aunts and the aunt who raised her in particular. “The woman I am today is because of her.”
By sixteen, Cynthia had enough of living with her mother. The household was tightly controlled, yet Cynthia was left mostly to fend for herself. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she called her father who lived in Newark, New Jersey, and moved in with him. It was nice being around her sisters, but she was the oldest of the bunch and her father was hard on her. Cynthia knew she wouldn’t be able to stay there long.
At seventeen, Cynthia became pregnant, started working in a factory, and rented her own apartment. She had to drop out of school but went back to get her GED when her youngest child was a baby. She knew she didn’t want to work in the factory the rest of her life. She did everything she could to get out, taking classes in between working full-time and taking care of three children. Her classes were secretarial and business focused. She worked for several years at an organization assisting immigrants and then at a local housing authority. She loved having an office job and loved her work with the Hispanic community, getting to use her knowledge of the culture in Puerto Rico versus the culture in New York to relate to her clients.
While her children were still young, Cynthia fled from domestic violence in her home, taking them with her to Florida where she obtained a job in the Attorney General’s office. She loved it there. Her heart was with the legal work done to support children of abuse. Many of their situations reminded her of what she went through with her mother. She was invested in their cases and wanted so badly to see them safe and cared for.
She was also hungry for school and began taking classes at Everest University in Tampa to get her Associate’s degree in paralegal studies. With her Associate’s, she was given a promotion to paralegal. She excelled, continuing to learn and grow in her position at the AG’s. She began taking classes for her bachelor’s soon after and eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in criminal justice.
Her kids grew up. Cynthia found herself with an empty house and the desire to travel. She visited Arizona and the Grand Canyon and by chance met the man who would become her husband. They had a whirlwind romance and she moved out there to be with him for a while before they both decided to settle in Florida.
When Cynthia returned, she decided to live in Riverview to be close to her three sons and grandchildren. She built her own house, got to spend time with her new grandbabies, and then began looking for jobs. She worked for a while at a criminal defense firm but the commute was hard on her – two hours per day. Instead, she decided she wanted to be, “somewhere close, somewhere I could enjoy helping people.”
The immigration paralegal position at our Wimauma location became available in January of 2020. Cynthia interviewed with Deputy Directors, Lisa and Jena, as well as attorneys, Rebecca and Malvina, who were currently staffing the office. It was a good fit.
She loves the work at GLS where she primarily works with the Hispanic farmworker community. All of her clients have been a victim of some sort of crime. “It makes me feel good that my knowledge is helping them in one way or another.” She loves seeing their lives move forward in a positive direction because of the immigration work being done. Some clients have struggled for so long and it is a relief to see them finally win their cases. “I’ve been through a lot and I know. I’ve been in their shoes.”
Our dear Cynthia is capable of inspiring anyone with her positive attitude. She has the spirit of a true team worker and goes above and beyond for anyone that needs assistance, especially our clients. She is truly godsend, and couldn’t be more grateful that she is part of the team.
– Malvina Tashi, Supervising Immigration Attorney
For now, Cynthia is committed to continuing to learn as much as she can, especially about different units at GLS. “I can see myself here until I retire,” she says. While at the Attorney General’s, she didn’t get to see the results of her work with children. But here, she can. “It’s a blessing.”
Cynthia, we are so happy to have you on our team and are so proud of the life you have lived. You embody strength, courage, and determination in reaching your goals. Our clients are lucky to have someone like you to guide them.