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American Dream is Real for Refugee and Her Spanish Olive Oil

During the height of the Cuban missile crises on October 19, 1962, 11 year old Miriam and her parents caught the last flight out of Cuba, with one suitcase between them.

"As Russian missiles were in Cuba pointed at Miami, we were on a flight from Havana. Everything was fear-driven."

In Miami, they met her brother who had left Cuba six months earlier.

"We were refugees," she said. "We had to start over."

But they were refugees with marketable skills. Her mother, who was a seamstress in the garment industry, found work almost immediately after arriving in the United States. It took a bit longer for her father, who had been a lumberjack in Cuba.

Life in Miami was different -- fallout shelters, radiation drills, a different language and a new way of life. Miriam was one of only five children in her school who spoke Spanish.

Miriam was shaped into the person she is today by these experiences.

Miriam Vigoa didn't foresee making a Spanish olive oil splash in the health food industry when she added spices to her great-grandmother's herbed olive oil recipe and began serving it on menu items at Cafe Latte.

She was already occupied with running Cypress Lighting -- a business she purchased in 1983 -- helping run Cafe Latte, the coffee shop she opened with partner Kristi Linebaugh in 1995 and investing in and maintaining real estate.

Miriam was happy sharing a bit of her heritage with cafe patrons who were requesting the Spanish olive oil -- now known as Canary Island Garlic and Herb Splash.

After doing some research, she began hand-blending herbs and Spanish olive oil into Splash and bottling it in her kitchen -- just in time for Christmas 2002.

The Splash is still hand-blended but is now bottled in a small cannery in Winter Springs.

Linebaugh and Vigoa decided to hire extra employees to run the cafe on Fridays and close it Saturday through Monday.

Weekends are now spent hauling a trailer full of Splash throughout Florida -- and often out of state -- attending trade shows and marketing the product.

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