His name is Victor and he is a bright-eyed seven-year-old. Victor is one of nearly 10,000 Cuban refugees who have been airlifted to this sprawling military facility for processing to a new life in America.
Victor is a survivor. In less than two weeks here, he has earned the right to wear a baseball cap -- his is a blue-and white, New Yankee model -- which is a sign of leadership among the refugees, and he has mastered the art of convincing visitors to buy cigarettes, the unofficial currency of the camp, for him.
He does this with a smile as wide as his outstretched palms, and half a dozen words he can say in English.
"Hey Steve," he calls out. "But cigarettes?" he adds, completing his vocabulary.
Victor is one of three dozen young men and women, officially designated as "unaccompained children," who have been taken under the angelic-but-pragmatic wing of the Rev. Todd Hevia.
Father Hevia arrived here two weeks ago, dispatched by the bishop of Pensacola to find 100 refugees for resettlement in the diocese of that western Florida Panhandle city.
But Father Hevia found more pressing problems, and except for a quick trip to Pensacola to deliver two teen-agers to foster homes, he has been here ever since. Like many of the workers, both from various federal agencies and volunteer groups, he has been working 12- to 15-hour days, seven days a week.
His special concerns are the teen-agers -- who left Cuba alone, many of them hoping to contact relatives already in the United States.
"Some of them are small in size," Father Hevia said during an interview that was repeatedly interrupted by urgent calls of "Father, Father," to which he responded quickly with advice for solving the problems.
"Red tape, red tape," he muttered. "Too many of these bureaucrats are more concerned with processing papers than they are with processing people."
As an official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency passed his makeshift office in a building on the Fort Walton beach fairground, Father Hevia called out:
"I can't believe you people. We've got families ready to move out, and you say they must wait for clearance to the airlines. Put them on a bus. They don't mind riding 12 hours. They'll go to Wyoming or Alaska or anywhere on a bus. They just want to get out of here and start on a new life."
The official said that if there had been delays, they would not continue.
The opening of a third resettlement center at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., should take some of the pressure off the centers here and at Fort Chaffee, Ark. Of the more than 56,000 refugees who have landed in Florida since the exodus from Cuba began last month, 9,997 have been airlifted here on 73 charter planes. Another 17,339 went to Chaffee.
Despite reports that Cuban President Fidel Castro was using the boat brigade to empty prisons and mental institutions, INS officlas here have found relatively few people they consider a threat to the American public.
Even some of the released nonpolitical prisoners are being cleared. One is a 20-year-old woman who was imprisoned for seven years because of epilepsy. Others included men who served three years each for stealing a chicken and stealing bananas, and two years for the theft of an auto part. Even one murdered will be resettled -- an elderly nurse who killed her doctor-husband seven years ago in a domestic quarrel.
Fourteen refugees have been transferred to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta and a few others to federal prisoners in New York, Missouri and Allabama.
But most of the refugees are, like Victor, young and free of undesirable characteristics. They have turned their temporary home into a scene from "M*A*S*H," complete with one man who, when the clothes were distributed, grabbled a woman's red dress and sashayed off to one of the tent barracks.
Other refugees while away the hours playing ball, attending daily Mass and nightly disco dances, and telling anyone who will listen how good it is to be at Camp Libertad in America.
And tyring to buy cigarettes.