THEODORE, Ala. (WKRG) — The largest Hispanic-owned company in the state, Alabama Roll Products, now sits off Laurendine Road in Theodore.

But the journey to get here started with a man named Gilberto Diaz in Cuba.

The Decision to Leave Cuba

Gilbert Diaz took ownership of Alabama Roll Products after his father died in 2003.

“My dad was a very interesting person; he actually was a multi-millionaire back in Cuba in the ’50s and ’60s,” Gilbert Diaz said.

However, in 1959, his father found himself at a crossroads when Fidel Castro took over Cuba.

“One day he got into his office, and they had some great government officials sitting behind his own desk and they told him, ‘You either work for us or you don’t work at all,'” Gilbert Diaz said.

Gilberto Diaz decided to take a leap of faith and left the country on a small boat. A week later, he landed off the coast of Key West, Florida.

“His clothes were just weather-beaten, and he basically started in his underwear,” his son said.

Finding Love and Building a Family

As Gilberto Diaz was rebuilding his new life, he moved from Florida to Louisiana. But something, or someone, was still missing.

Teresa Del Carmen Diaz, the love of his life, stayed behind in Cuba while Gilberto began to chase the American Dream for their future family.

It took four long years before Teresa could make her journey to America. She arrived in Miami, Florida in 1964.

“When he finally spotted my mom, he said it was the happiest day of his life,” Gilbert Diaz said.

A Booming Business

Together in Louisiana, business boomed. So, the two packed their bags again and brought business to Alabama for bigger opportunities.

Now, Alabama Roll Products reaches countries all around the globe, supplying materials for the oil, gas, paper and dredging industries.

But the heart of the business remains in the family, as Gilbert’s son, Zachary, now is who hammers the steel.

“I like to see where I can take it one day; that’s my main goal,” Zachary Diaz said.