[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Elian (Continued)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Elian (Continued)

Continuation of yesterday's Elian post...

As the months went by, time began to heal some of the wounds, but a general feeling of discontent remained. The Cuban-American community turned to itself and began to think of ways to combat the image problem it faced. It also became united like never before, motivated by the hurt and resentment we still felt. This played a major role in what became the next big news story of the year...the November 2000 presidential elections.

George Bush won by taking Florida by a mere 500 or so votes. The Cuban-American community, which in the 1996 election voted in surprisingly high numbers for Democrat Bill Clinton, exacted its revenge on Al Gore by voting overwhelmingly for George Bush. There's little doubt that if the Elian saga had not taken place or if it would have been resolved differently, Al Gore would have received enough of the Cuban-American votes to win Florida and the presidency. We felt vindicated, we felt as if we mattered again.

This attitude would serve us well for the earth-shaking events that were to follow.

9/11/2001. All of a sudden, the Elian saga became insignificant compared to what had taken place that horrific day. The indignation and horror I felt was much greater, much more significant. After all, our country was attacked. The same country I had questioned just one year before. In the end, we were Americans, not just Cuban-Americans, but Americans just like any other across the country. That same Old Glory that I cringed at after Elian was now prominently displayed in many Cuban-American homes, including mine.

Fast-forward to 2005. What have we learned? I think the main lesson learned from the Elian ordeal was that we have to rely on ourselves to raise the awareness of those around us about what's going on in Cuba. We also learned that we are indeed an important part of the American fabric, and we should weave our experiences, values, and ideas into that fabric, not try to create our own.

Are ethnic relations in Miami better now than 5 years ago? Probably yes. If anything, the Elian struggle made us speak out about our differences instead of keeping them bottled up inside. But there will always be culture clash in an area such as South Florida which absorbs people of so many different backgrounds. Hopefully we'll be able to better deal and accept our differences if and when the next conflict arises.


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