ICU 101???? Why, Introduction to Cuban Upbringing of course!
I’ve been suffering from writer’s block (I’m sure it is all that data analyzing that my dissertation has me doing that has pretty much stymied my creative juices…) so I decided to desempolvar un paper that I wrote for a class a while back in which we had to contar nuestra historia. Since being the offspring of Cuban exiles just gives you so much to work with (Que Pasa USA anyone?) I’ll do this in parts. It is outlined in what I call the four caveats of Cuban upbringing: Chaperonas, Ebony and Ivory, The Last Cuban Virgin, and the classic Shhhh…don’t let anyone see you.
The daughter of one of my friends went to a party de marquesina the other day and made me remember how different my upbringing had been from my Puerto Rican counterparts.
But, first things first. Comencemos con el principio, mainly why do I consider myself Cuban and not Puerto Rican, starting with the most common thing I hear.
“But you were born in Puerto Rico, right?” “Yes” “So you are Puerto Rican” “No, I’m Cuban” “But you weren’t born in Cuba” “No I wasn’t” They didn’t get it I’m sure of it.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve had to go over this in my lifetime, I wouldn’t need to be pursuing a Ph.D., I’d be a millionaire. Born in exile is a curse and a blessing at the same time, you get two patrias right? Well that depends. From what I gather if you were born in the mainland U.S., you do. But if you are like me, and you are born somewhere else, well then, you just might hit a bit of xenophobia on the way.
I was born on the beautiful tropical paradise and U.S. Territory island of Puerto Rico, a sunny morning of October 15, 1970. I was born to two wonderful Cuban parents. Well sort of. Papi was the son of Spanish immigrants to Cuba, Gallegos to be exact. But they weren’t Gallegos because they were from Spain; they were from Galicia. They had four children, three boys and one girl; and Papi was the only one of them to be born in Galicia, so he knew a bit of xenophobia too – and as kids can be cruel, Papi dropped the Spanish accent quicker than a hot potato. If you would’ve met him, you wouldn’t have doubted for a second that he was Cuban; then again neither did he.
My parents met in Spain (in Madrid to be exact) while in the exilio and decided to move to Puerto Rico, were they later married and raised me and my brother. Raised in a Cuban enclave, or as my husband likes to refer to it, una burbuja cubana, the first five years of my life I grew up believing I was Cuban. I don’t know when or how it happened but I was inoculated with the anti-communism vaccine, the I hate Fidel vaccine, and the Cuban vaccine. Much to my dismay this included an entirely different vocabulary which I would discover my first day at school.
People often ask me why I don’t feel Puerto Rican if after all I was born and raised there. But aren’t niuyorikans Puerto Ricans too? And as far as I know, many of them have never set foot in the little island. One thing is what your birth certificate says, usually a technicality, but another is the culture you are raised in within the four walls of your home. Now that is your true nationality.
It’s ironic when I think about it. As a child, I was always made very aware of my “cubanness”; as an adult my friends could not understand why I considered myself Cuban. In their eyes if I had been born in Puerto Rico, then I was Puerto Rican no matter where my parents came from.
It was easy for them to say; they ate habichuelas we ate frijoles; they used traje de baño I used a trusa; my girlfriends wore an enagua while I wore a sayuela, yet they never understood the difference. I dreamt of places they had never been to, nor I for that matter, but they were dear to my heart – it was as if a micro-chip with borrowed memories from a Cuba long gone had been uploaded into my soul.
It should come as no surprise than I am a moderate Republican. I’m not clear yet if I’m right wing or center, since I really have not paid much attention to the difference. I believe in my ideas, my values, my morals and my ethics, no matter what that makes me politically in front of others. Through the discrimination I endured for being the daughter of Cuban exiles in Puerto Rico, I learned to be me and be proud of who I was no matter how different that was.
So….which of the four caveats would you like to read next?????