I am a product of the Cuban Revolution as well as a Daughter of the American Revolution. How could two sides completely at odds possibly combine to create me? Who knows. I’m sure it won’t come to anyone’s shock when I say that in the last few days (or sixteen months)our country has seemed more like The Pull than a functioning democracy. “Dump Trump” and “Crooked Hillary:” that’s what we have heard in the media and from each other. And since the end of the election? It’s only gotten worse. Verbal harassment and even hostile action has targeted racial minorities, women and LGBT people in our community and left them scared for their safety.
After Fidel Castro’s assumption of power in Cuba, thousands of Cubans sought refuge in the United States. My family was among those lucky enough to receive free airplane tickets from Delta Airlines.
Nevertheless, for years my abuelo set money aside to send the company until he had repaid them in full. My abuela is one of the most patriotic people I have ever met. She vividly recounts the warm summer day in the small town of Midland, Michigan — the day my family became American Citizens. She remembers the tears she cried when they returned home from their naturalization ceremony to find the entire street lined with American flags.
It makes me wonder… where does that leave me? As a first generation American, should I self-deport or stay on the couch watching Monday Night Football? Should I shy away from Latino organizations because I know more country songs than salsa music? Would I call my Cuban half “Ms. Housekeeping” and return the insult with the jaunty chorus of “American Idiot”? No. Of course not. We can’t separate ourselves from our immigrant tradition any more that I can separate my two cultures. Whether you immigrated to this Country in 1685 or 1967, if you love this country, you’re part of the community of the free who stand for liberty and justice for all.
In hurting others with our words or actions, we are keeping them from their education and challenging their rights to safety. With what we say, we can tear down our neighbors, our friends and fellow students who pay and work hard for their degree. In doing these things, we are saying more about ourselves than the people we target.
And with immigrants? With the near nuclear tension between these closest of neighbors, how did my parents end up together? Weren’t they enemies during the Cold War when Soviet Missiles based in Cuba were aimed at the United States? Well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that my father’s America and my mother’s Cuba weren’t so different that they couldn’t come together. Never was hate an issue between them. I am here writing this because America has always been built on integration of new people and new cultures. Americans by nature are independent, brave and compassionate people.
A place where my family was welcomed and where my abuelo could embrace his career as a cardiologist despite his thick accent. And when I remember abuela’s flag-lined street, I think that America is at its greatest when it is good.