The Reality of Cubans Living in Exile
I am an American born Cuban – living in exile. How can I be living in exile if I was not born there? Well, although I was not physically born in Cuba both of my parents are originally from Cuba and I was raised “the Cuban way.” I was taught to be proud of our roots, where we came from, and who we were as a people. This was essential in order for my siblings and I to develop a sense of “belonging.” You see, I was born in Michigan to Cuban parents. In Michigan my parents were foreigners, therefore, was I. By the age of two we had moved to Puerto Rico. Once again, we were foreigners – we were Cubans. Shortly after my 14th birthday we moved again, this time to a small town in Central Florida where there were very few Hispanics at the time. Once again, we were the foreigners. So holding on tight to being Cuban allowed us “belong” even if it was to our own kind, regardless of where we were. And that is what Cubans do. They hang on tight to being Cuban passing it on to their children and even to a third generation down.
For the most part, by nature Cubans are a very proud people. Proud of their country (mostly what it once was) and their rich heritage. Our culture is rich with customs and traditions that have been carried down from generation to generation, regardless of location. The family bond is so strong that holds tight even across the 90 miles that separates us from our families and relatives back in the island. Therefore, we worry about their well-being. Worry about the poor condition in which they live in today due to a very cruel communist regime that has deeply hurt its own people. And, so we feel the pain for what is happening to “our people” to “our country.” We hear from them about how they have to live with rationed food, clothing, and other basic necessities. We watch the news and witness the injustice and the cruelty with which they are being treated such as is the case with the “Ladies in White” recently.
“The Ladies in White” are a group of women who every year, for the past seven years, peacefully protest by walking down the streets in Cuba, the unjust arrest of their husbands, sons, nephews, grandsons, and such for exercising the most basic human right which is that of freedom of expression. They are not criminals – they did not steal, rape, or kill anyone, they simply expressed their dislike for their country’s communist government and its ways. For us living in the United States of America freedom of expression is something we take for granted, but for those living in Cuba that is a “right” that was taken away 50 years ago, along with many other “human rights.” Thus, when we see such blatant display of abuse and injustice we unite and rise up in protest to remind the rest of the world that Cubans in Cuba are being oppressed and suffering and with them, we are suffering as well. Such was the case in the recent peaceful protest that took place in the streets of Miami organized by the well known singer in both, the Spanish-speaking community and English-speaking community, Gloria Estefan. Thousands of people peacefully walked the streets of Miami on Thursday, March 25th, in protest of the blatant violation of human rights in Cuba. Not only are the human rights of the prisoners being violated as evidenced by videos and photos circulating around the world, but also the rights of those women who peacefully walk the streets in Cuba and for that are beaten, humiliated, and detained, as videos of the event demonstrated.
Cubans have come to this country not only looking for a better life for themselves, for their children and their children’s children, but have also come looking for freedom. A freedom they so much want that many have lost their lives at sea while trying to reach the “land of the free.” That is just how precious freedom is to us all. For those who have been fortunate enough to make it here, I believe that although living in exile, Cubans in this country have been able to remain as “Cuban” as if they still lived in Cuba because they all brought within them a “little piece of Cuba,” not wanting to completely let go. And that “little piece of Cuba” is so large within the heart of every Cuban that it is felt and spread several generations down.
Sadly, a lot of Cuban born exiles have passed on not being able to return to their country as a free Cuba. But to us, second and third generation Cuban exiles, that possibility still exits. Our longing to see Cuba free again drives us to hang to that as tightly as our parents and grand-parents did. So until Cuba is free again, we will continue to join our hands and voices together marching in unison chanting “Libertad” (freedom) and “Viva Cuba Libre,” (long live free Cuba).