“Our diaspora, our exile, is conserving Cuba outside of Cuba,” she wrote. “. . . I’m rediscovering my own country in each of these Cubans dispersed around the world.
“When I confirm what they have really accomplished, the contrast with what official propaganda tells me about them leaves me with an enormous sadness for my country. For all this human wealth that we have lost, for all this talent that has had to wash up outside our borders and for all the seeds that have germinated in other lands.
“How did we allow one ideology, one party, one man, to have felt the ‘divine’ power to decide who could or could not carry the adjective ‘Cuban’ ”?
I love the spirit of her inclusive words and admire the courage it took — for a person who will be returning to Cuba — to say them.
But my identity has never been defined by the Cuban government, nor by its decrees, and certainly won’t now with its weak reforms.
Despite our never-ending exile, or perhaps because of it, I am Cuban and will die Cuban. A piece of Cuba, the real and the mythological, indeed came with us in our metaphorical luggage, and every exodus brought another layer of the island to me.
But I’m not a “Cuban — period.”
My identity embraces the expanded family I now have, the country where I’ve lived most of my life, the city where I belong. My dead are buried here. My children and grandchildren were born in this land I love as dearly as Cuba.
I am Cuban, but I am also American, and my Americanness is both refuge and shield against the fanaticism that put a country’s fate in one man’s hands for five decades and counting.
It’s an added part that doesn’t lessen the Cuban but pays tribute to that day in October at El Refugio and to the safe haven my parents built when they made that fateful, heart-wrenching decision to pluck their children from a society ruled by dogma to give them what Jose Martí described as “roots and wings.”
No end points for me.
Somos cubanos y más.