ICU 101

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?????


Are you kidding me? Freedom does not have a price

I was not going to write anything today as all I want is to crawl into bed and watch the snow fall while watching College Football, the NFL network and the newly minted MLB network.  Yes, I am that much of a sports fanatic…and  Yes, Alan is a very lucky (and Happy) man for it.

I don’t like to get political in this blog, as it is a family oriented blog (one of the many reasons why I decided not to post about the 50th anniversary of fifo’s takeover as my blogging friends did.).  But, in the words of Michael Corleone….they pull me back in!

Going through my inbox, I received an email inviting me to join them in a Cuba Tour for Educators, in which I would partake in a host of great activities such as:

  • visit Cuban libraries, meet Cuban authors, and converse with members of writers and cultural organizations, and tour museums and schools all involved in the written word (how about visiting some political prisoners?)
  • a tour of the Museum of Literacy dedicated to the 380,000 young women and men who volunteered to eliminate illiteracy in 1961 (is there a monument to all who died trying to free Cuba from fifo?)
  • a private guided walking tour of the main historical sites of Old Havana (why a private tour, can’t I just go out on my own?)
  • an intimate look at the University of Havana where you’ll meet with professors and students to better understand Cuba’s education system (you mean indoctrination system right?)
  • private salsa, cha cha cha, and rumba dance lessons by Cuban pros
  • an afternoon for reflection and relaxation on the world-famed beaches of Varadero (can I bring a Cuban from the street with me?)
  • You’ll witness island history and cultural while staying in the historic five-star Hotel Habana Libre, providing a luxurious respite during your action packed itinerary (can I bring some more Cubans from the street with me to enjoy this luxurious respite?)
  • While on the tour, teachers (including spouses) gain an intimate knowledge of the Cuban school system that is heralded globally for its innovation, quality and effectiveness (WTF?)

And that last line is as far as I got through the email.  On a conference named “To Read is To Grow” I couldn’t help but wonder if all Cubans will be allowed to read what they please or if they are forced to “grow” only through reading regime approved books.

In addition, as I’m getting the dance lessons which I don’t need, relaxing in the beaches of Varadero, and having such a luxurious stay at Habana Libre can I conduct an adopt-a-Cuban movement and bring them with us?  Or would they be turned back at the gate?  How am I supposed to enjoy a “luxurious respite” when I know the REAL and TRUE situation of the CUBANS in the island (not the ones the government has LOANED the tour)?

I’m a woman of few words, specially when my blood boils as it did when I read this email.  So even though I could’ve written much more than I did, this was the response I mustered up to the fellow that sent me the email invitation:

As my family is from Cuba and lived first hand the results of the so called Cuban revolution, please take me off your list.I do not need to witness the enslavement and destruction of an entire country by an egomaniac self appointed dictator.

Freedom does not have a price.

Thank you.

Yes I could’ve said many more things, but alas when I’m pissed I’m short, concise and to the point. I foresee I will not be receiving any more invitations from this gentleman, nor any kind of response, and that is fine with me.

To have received this email on January 1st 2009, left me beyond speechless….and forced me to be political. Sheesh.