From Miami to Cuba, Con Amor
On November 25th, 2016, Raul Castro announced the death of his brother, Fidel, on Cuban state television. Though the country went into a period of mourning, the city that I grew up in, Miami, went into a period of partying. As one article read, while Raul’s mandate of a 9-day mourning period went out, “the exile community 90 miles away wasted no time in celebrating.”
Few phrases better describe Miami than just that: an exile community. One of the things I loved about growing up there was that, while of course we were given the safety and opportunities that a lot of our parents and grandparents brought us to America for, my family and I never had to really let go of our Venezuelan heritage. There are more Spanish-speakers than English-speakers in many parts of the city, and people understand what you mean when you tell them that you’re “from Caracas” even though you’ve lived in the States for most of your life. In Miami, we know that home is still across the ocean.
Though I did witness a bit of a heartbreaking culture loss in my own generation- friends who could not communicate with their Cuban grandparents well because they were second generation born Americans and were barely taught Spanish growing up, for example- I have never been more proud to be a nineteen-year-old Miamian than on the day Castro was pronounced dead.
My feeds on Instagram, Facebook and even Snapchat were absolutely booming with heart-wrenching stories, photos and testimonies. Friends shared pictures of their abuelas, grandmothers, who had barely made it out of Cuba alive during the days of Castro’s revolution, and spoke of how they wished their abuelas could still be alive to enjoy the liberating news. Videos were posted of grandparents reacting to the news of his death, breaking out into violently happy tears, wrapping themselves in the national flag they could finally embrace without qualms. Libre, libre, por fin, Cuba libre.
Of course, Miami’s reaction was not paralleled across the country. Many different organizations and officials responded solemnly to the news of the dead Cuban dictator, offering their condolences and sincerest apologies.
Again, my generation of Miami exiles fought back. Post after angry post, the determination in some of my peers to tell their story, to tell their grandparents’ stories, and defend the ugly truth about Castro was something phenomenal. They may have not all learned the language, and some of them may have come to identify as American as much they do Cuban, but they certainly inherited that wonderful, cliché Hispanic rage.
Latino’s are varied and diverse and come from a handful of entirely different cities and countries, but there are some characteristics that can be seen in most all of our cultures. Stubbornness is one of those traits. I see it every day in my Venezuelan mother and father, and I saw it on November 25th in all of my Cuban friends who were actively defending the truth that they knew about the horrors of the Castro regime. Even though they had no real reason to care, they held on to their families’ stories and attacked all those tried to say anything different. It was honest, sincerely driven political activism at its finest.
Something else a lot of us Latinos unfortunately share is that we are misplaced, exiled, driven out and disconnected from our home. Oftentimes, this has to do with a Chavez or a Castro, and though we know that the rest of the world will never understand what it’s like knowing that our parents or grandparents had to risk and alter their entire lives for our sake, we will continue to fight for the truth to be known.
We will pray rosaries, and drink copious amounts of hard liquor, and eat tons of rice, whether we are home home or Miami home or anywhere in the world, standing together in solidarity. And, occasionally, we will take to the streets, smashing our pots and pans in the air, chanting, “Free! Cuba libre, por fin!”