[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: What is a Cuban-American?

Friday, May 20, 2005

What is a Cuban-American?

Today, May 20th, the anniversary of Cuba's true independence, is the first day of the Cuba Nostalgia Convention. To mark the weekend-long event, I will post - or at least attempt to - a few stories relating to the "good ol' days" of Cuba and Cuban culture.

This first post is, admittedly, a bit self-centered. It's about my experiences as a Cuban-American growing up in the United States. Both cultures play a huge role in my life, so much so that I thought of naming this blog something along the lines of "Inside the Hyphen" to reflect the two sides of my culture (there's a book with a similar title, therefore I decided that it would not be an original name for a blog).

In a few sentences I hope to describe what life is like for me as a Cuban-American. I'm sure people of other ethnicities who are children of immigrants can relate to some of what I'm about to write. It will be broken down into two stages: growing up and as an adult.

Growing Up Cuban-American is:
  • Hearing countless stories of Cuba from older relatives, stories which never mentioned anything negative about Cuba.
  • Hearing those same relatives argue endlessly at family gatherings about where Havana streets started and ended.
  • As a kid, playing dominoes with your grandfather and having him chew you out for making a bad move that cost the game.
  • Having that same grandfather beam with pride after his grandson made a good play in his little league baseball game.
  • Spending long weekends at the beach with countless relatives and friends.
  • Having cafe con leche y tostada for breakfast and hamburgers and fries for lunch.
  • Not speaking English until you start kindergarten, and a few years later listen to your older relatives complain that you don't speak Spanish anymore.
  • Watching every episode of "Que Pasa USA" a million times each and being able to recite lines from the episodes.
  • Being able to personally relate to at least one "Que Pasa USA" episode.
  • Listening to Alvarez Guedes records with your parents and occasionally having to ask them to explain one of his jokes.
  • Going to the Three Kings Day parade down Calle Ocho.
  • Being embarrassed by your parents' and grandparents' "Cuban music".
  • Admonishing your parents for saying something negative about Americans, and admonishing your American friends for saying something negative about Cubans.
  • Going through a stage where you become somewhat embarrassed or turn your back on your Cuban heritage.

As an Adult, Being a Cuban-American is:

  • Spending long weekends at the beach with countless relatives and friends.
  • Having hamburgers and fries for lunch and arroz y frijoles negros for dinner.
  • Having your older relatives give you a hard time because your kids don't speak enough Spanish.
  • Laughing out loud at "Que Pasa USA" episodes even though you've seen them a million times.
  • Finally being able to understand Alvarez Guedes' jokes.
  • Playing "Cuban music" at parties.
  • Getting your regularly scheduled guilt trip from your mother because you don't visit or call as often as she'd like you to.
  • Feeling comfortable mingling in two cultures but sometimes not feeling like you're a part of either.
  • Coming to terms and embracing your Cuban heritage, and denouncing those that are still embarrassed or ashamed of theirs as "cubanos arrepentidos".
  • Asking your parents to recite those countless old stories from Cuba that you dreaded to hear as a kid.

And, in closing, being a Cuban-American is being proud of the fact that you are a citizen of the greatest country on earth, and being equally as proud of being a part of a rich and wonderful Cuban culture and heritage.

3 Comments:

Blogger doyle said...

The only Cuban connection I have is through Señorita Arango, my high school Spanish teacher eons ago.

I'm only a lurker at Val's, but am cheering him on especially with Cuba Nostalgia this weekend.

You, like me, have very simple Blogger capabilities, which means no trackback capabilities. But, there's still a way: Wizbang's trackback tool!

Copy and paste this . . .

http://www.aylwardfamily.com/content/tbping.asp

. . . into a browser window and take a look.

8:38 PM, May 20, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks Doyle, I'll give it a shot when I get the chance.

Thanks for reading!

10:35 AM, May 21, 2005  
Blogger Songuacassal said...

Awesome! La Comiste bro... though one particular experience I would add is:

Growing up:
Dreading my parents to make me wear a Guayabera to school on Cuban-American day (con pañuelo rojo y todo).

As an adult:
Having at least five different colors/styles of guayaberas/havaneras/cubaveras and wearing them on weekends como nada (pero todavia sin el pañuelo rojo).

1:59 AM, May 23, 2005  

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