I am a first generation Cuban American, born to exiles. I am also a new mother and wondering how today’s events will impact my 3-month old son.
How will I teach him who he is? How will I instill a sense of Cuban culture and family history?
My father spent nearly 21 years in various Cuban gulags. His father was killed by firing squad. My mother’s father also spent years in Cuban cells.
My story is hardly unique. I was born and raised in Miami. I grew up between English and Spanish, a bridge between my families’ suffering, loss and tragedy and a new life in a new world. Like many others, I inherited my family’s pain.
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My parents’ Cuba, their parents’ and grandparents’ Cuba, became a place alive only in woeful memories or impassioned political arguments. It became a place that lived in our collective unconscious, a place we knew and felt and understood.
And today that story becomes a little hazier. My father and grandparents are gone. My mother doesn’t discuss her life there much — the trauma is too much for her to bear. There aren’t family photos or ancestral artifacts to tell the stories of what life was like before, during and after the revolution. All those things had to stay behind as families fled.
Now I rack my brain, trying to remember the stories and I try to imagine how I will share them with my son. Will he also yearn for a place that exists only in hearts and minds of a generation that is fading away? If I lived between worlds, between languages and cultures, what does that make him? I don’t know.
Today Cuba begins to change. Whether that change it’s for good or bad — whether it leads to democracy on the island, whether Cubans’ lives improve — is unknown. But change is certain. And my parents’ Cuba, even the embellished romanticized memories, is even further away and less tangible.
Neyda A. Borges,