2019 Great Immigrants Recipient

Tomás Pedro Regalado
Director, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and Former Mayor, Miami, Florida
Born in:

Tomás Pedro Regalado was born in Havana in 1947. His father was the president of the Cuban Association of Journalists and Reporters and a political prisoner under the communist regime of Fidel Castro. Regalado was 14 when he and his younger brother were airlifted to Miami as part of Operation Peter Pan — a covert program run by the Catholic Welfare Bureau and the U.S. government to smuggle minors out of Cuba. After living in a camp, the boys were released to their aunt and later reunited with their mother. As Regalado told the Translating Cuba blog, “When I arrived as a teenager, there were still signs in many rental buildings reading: ‘No Cubans, no Jews, no dogs.’ We had to overcome these challenges, so Cubans created Miami.” In addition to attending high school while working to support his family, he started volunteering at the Spanish-language radio station WFAB, known as La Fabulosa. Regalado became the youngest reporter there, continuing to climb the ranks in Miami media, and was the first Cuban American to join the White House press corps. In 1979, after spending more than 22 years in prison, Regalado’s father was released from prison in Cuba. Once reunited, the two journalists — father and son — had the opportunity to work together for the first time. A Republican, Regalado began his political career in 1996 as City of Miami commissioner, and was reelected in 1999, 2003, and 2007. He was elected mayor of Miami in 2009 on a platform of cutting taxes, improving municipal services, and reducing the size of government. During his tenure Regalado balanced the budget, attracted investment, and led the way toward economic recovery in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Not hewing to a single party ideology, Regalado takes an independent perspective: he opposed the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba and has challenged the Trump administration’s stance on climate change and immigration. Regalado completed his two terms as mayor, the maximum allowed, in 2017. The next year he was named director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees Radio Televisión Martí — U.S. broadcasters of news and other programs to Cuba.