MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Mike Fernandez likes to show off his home. Not his multi-million dollar waterfront mansion in Coral Gables. He’d rather talk about the small home where he grew up in Cuba.
“I remember taking a fishing line and a guy put bananas on it and I reeled it up,” Fernandez said as he looked at the painting of his childhood home. “It was fun but my dad probably smacked me in the head for doing it.”
Fernandez has become a billionaire dealing in health care companies. But he still found time to write a book, “Humbled By the Journey”.
The book details his 508-mile walk in Europe to raise money for Miami Children’s Hospital and the Miami-Dade Early Childhood Initiative Foundation. Fernandez trekked from the small French village of St. Jean Pied de Port to the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, a grueling pilgrimage dating back to the Middle Ages that took 32 days to complete.
“Physically, it was very demanding,” Fernandez said. “I was walking an average of 58,000 steps a day. I was doing 18 miles per day.”
The book is also about Fernandez’s journey from Cuba to the U.S.
As an army veteran, who considers himself a hardliner on Cuba, he favors President Barak Obama’s opening to the island.
“For fifty plus years we have followed a policy toward Cuba that has not generated results,” Fernandez said. “In business, you have to be pragmatic. In life you have to be pragmatic. So I think the position the U.S. has taken is long overdue.”
Besides promoting his book, Fernandez is working on putting a giant American flag in downtown Miami. He’s trying to convince city commissioners to back his idea to put up the biggest flag in the country.
“I’m not asking the city to give me one cent,” he said. “I’m not even asking for the land. I’m going to take five to ten million dollars and put up our beautiful and inspiring flag. It’s their land, their park, their flag. It’s my nickel.”
So far, Fernandez has not gotten much traction with the city commission on the flag project. But one thing he learned on his 500-mile pilgrimage is to not give up and to take things one step at a time.