[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Miamian - First Generation Cuban American

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Miamian - First Generation Cuban American

26th Parallel is happy to be a part of today's Miami Cross Blogination. You can check out our contribution to this wacky event by visiting Stuck on the Palmetto.

I am privileged to bring you the following post by Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal of Transit Miami. Please make him feel at home and leave a comment.

As one of the many first generation Cuban-Americans, I am glad to say that I along with many others in my same position, see things differently than our Cuban born Cuban-American relatives. First generation Cuban Americans aren’t in a state of limbo like our older relatives who were born in Cuba but moved to the United States later on in life. We also aren’t filled with the false notions of ever returning to a free Cuba, the Cuba that once existed but is now only left as a relic in our memories by the pictures painted to us by our grandparents and such. The peculiarity behind it is that at the same time, we don’t fully align ourselves as Americans either; this is when my term Miamian comes into play because Miami is with where we best identify ourselves with. Miamians have been able to take full advantage of the hard work and struggles that our elder relatives endured while reestablishing themselves in a new lifestyle, culture, and country. Hence, this is the reason why many Miamians tend to see things so differently; we simply haven’t had to adapt midlife to new social circumstances. In any case, we are grateful for the choices our relatives made and difficulties they have had to overcome when settling abroad.

Miamians long for a drastic change to occur in Cuba, sooner rather than later, much like any other Cuban born Cuban-American does. However, unlike many of our ancestors, we believe that if a change is ever to occur, it will have to come from within; a revolution of sorts must happen to begin to topple the years of tyranny and oppression which have plagued our island nation for so many years. Typically, upon mentioning this to any Cuban bred Cuban-American, they point out how dissent or civil disobedience of any kind isn’t tolerated on the island and is often met with a swift measures or the execution of “guilty” parties. Granted, but there is only so much of this that could occur before the Cuban government creates a crisis for itself economically and within the international community. Revolutions don’t have to be bloody to be successful either. I reference the Velvet Revolution as successful example, as was much of the toppling of the USSR in the 1980’s. The point is that most Cuban Born Cuban-Americans fail to realize that if change is to ever occur, it must be initiated by actual Cubans rather than the dissidents who have fled since.

I digressed. Many Cuban born Cuban-Americans believe that the natural death of Fidel Castro will serve as the tipping point for the end of the communist regime in Cuba. Although this could in fact serve as a catalyst if the right steps are taken by the Cuban people, I fear that the death of an 80 year old man would not be sufficient to cause such a drastic change. The desire for change must be inherently found within the Cuban people. This is why ideas such as Radio Marti, the aerial flyering by the Basulto brothers, or even the latest mirror scheme have proven to be ineffective tools in bringing about change on the island. Most Cuban-Americans still fail to see that Radio Marti is nothing but a mere political tool created by American policy writers to try and appease the Cuban-American voter base. Although, a growing number of people within the Cuban American community are beginning to focus their attention on American public policy rather than the happenings on the island. The post Castro Cuba will likely look much as the communist Cuba we have all grown to know. Sadly, the safeguards of the current false regime are designed to keep power distributed among a dedicated and privileged few in a very un-communist sort of way.

Miamians have a different set of interests than our island born relatives. While many of our elder relatives continue to long for the country they left behind, Miamians have the fortune of being able to look into the future without any of the struggles that our families endured. We understand the kinship our relatives have for their former home, based on their nostalgic recollections of the blue waters of Varadero Beach, the cobblestone streets of Havana, and the green pastures of el campo. And, although we genuinely care about our roots and our culture, we have also begun to create a strong affinity for the city which has raised us; we are the first generation of Miamians


Anonymous Mikey said...

Good post, I know many cuban americans of my generation that recoil about being asked where they are from. They were born here in Miami and consider themselves American, but thats not the answer that people are looking for they want to know if they are cuban. So I understand and appreciate your post. I do have one contention with it though, at the end of your post you say that you are the first generation of Miamians. Implying almost that it is only cuban americans that compose this term Miamians. I'm pretty sure that this wasn't your intention but thats the way it came off to me. I'm an immigrant myself, but from Europe, I've lived here since I was 7. I feel more at home in Miami then I do in the rest of the country, and I consider myself along with the rest of my American (miami code word for white non hispanic), native born Miamians, a Miamian in every sense of the word. I guess the comment is to say don't forget us we are Miamians also and its not just the first born Cuban American community that should use the term more. (On a side note I hate the term South Florida, I live in Miami not broward for a reason, don't lump me in with them)

11:11 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Val Prieto said...


I love Miami. I wasnt born here but I was raised here. Ive buried my grandparents here, will undoubtedly bury my parents here and will most probably live here the rest of my life and be buried here as well. Miami is my home.

That said, I think as Miamians of Cuban descent, it is our duty not only to focus on American public policy and strive to be good Americnas, but to honor the struggle of the previous generation vis a vis Cuba. It isnt about returning to Cuba - I will never live in Cuba - it is about what is right. It is about not letting what our parents went through be forgotten. Its about their struggles being in vain. Its about a country of 11 million slaves that need to be free fom their bondage.

So, yes, I applaud Miami and consider myself to be a good Miamian. But dont forget Cuba. She is our legacy as well.

11:23 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

I echo Val's comments, and would only add that while true change must start from within, it is our responsibility as freedom-loving people of Cuban descent to help out in any way we can. TV and Radio Marti serve a noble purpose. If it hasn't brought about change in Cuba, it is because the U.S. is acting alone in this effort.

Mikey, I agree with you that it's not only Cuban-Americans who should be considered Miamians. Gabe definitely did not imply that. You made a very good point at the end, everybody from Miami should consider themselves Miamians if they call this their home.

11:38 AM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous Miami Transit Man said...

I never said I disagreed. I spoke about the struggles of my relatives and how I am grateful for all they went through to get me where I am today. I agree we should never forget the hardships they endured leaving family behind while escaping through Mexico or NYC as my family did. But, at the same time, we shouldn't harp on them either. It's important to learn from our roots, but, we shouldn't make it the focus of our lives like many Cuban-Americans tend to do...

Thanks for the comments guys, i knew going into this that it would spark an interesting discussiona dn possibly some controversy. I agree with what you guys generally speak about. I intended to convey that the passion our relatives had for their country will now be the same passion the first generation Miamians will have for Miami...

11:50 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

I should add one more comment to Gabe's post. I totally understand and relate to where he's coming from here. When I was his age (alright now, I'm not THAT old, but just one generation older than him) I felt much the same. I still do in many respects. As you get older, you start to view your parents/grandparents in a different light - you start seeing yourself in them. This is why so many people become nostalgic for their roots as they get older.

In our case, it means that you can be totally devoted to the here and now (Miami) and at the same time be devoted to the cause of your parents and grandparents (a free Cuba). There's more than enough room for both.

12:03 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Val Prieto said...

There's more than enough room for both.


12:16 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous Alejandro said...

I think you have left out the cuban american generation that was born in cuba--but left at a very early age. I don't think I would agree with your comments entirely.

12:51 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous Henry Agüeros Garces said...

Thank you Robert for your comments.
I feel that Radio Marti if nothing else, keeps the light of hope open for the people of Cuba. Its lets them know that they are NOT forgotten, that the world is aware of there plight. Its brings UNCENSORED news to those who starve for an opinion other than the official party line. Radio Marti does NO harm to the Cuban people. It does damage the dictatorship.
One other point I want to bring up to you.
Brothers to the Rescure.
How did that organization harm the Cuban people. Please clarify.
I have an uncle and aunt who were rescued because of Brothers to the Rescure.
You also state that the despot has ensured that communism with not end with the death of the castro plantation owners.
What can you tell us of the examples of such countries as Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Checz Republic?

12:55 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger El Guardia Rural said...

I also have my doubts about change in Cuba. But I know for a fact from people inside Cuba and well connected people at that who know that when Fidel goes away so does the revolution. And yes I am a Cuban-American born and raised in Miami but in no way do I consider myself a Miamian. I am a Cuban-American. One who loves both countries at the same time. I am completely Bicultural and one could say I have a double personality. My american friends say that I am american as apple pie y los cubanos dicen que soy mas cubano que la azucar. Those that think that the Cuban-American community in the United States will not have an impact on a Post Castro Cuba are living in La-La land. What I believe is that when Fidel dies Pandora Box opens and nobody knows what will come out. I strongly believe and know that neither the Cuban-American community, nor the Cuban government, nor the US government will be ready for the change that is to come. I know this because I was an intelligence analyst at USSOUTHCOM for some time. Remember the US government did not know the USSR was to collapse the day before it happened. Regards.

1:03 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Dayngr said...

Excellent post! I completely agree that if Cuba is ever going to change it must come from within Cuba.

To comment on the other part of your post, I'm an American. As in white, Anglo and born here. I think it is important to celebrate your heritage (mine is Italian and Irish) but also to remember the country you pledge your allegiance to (America right?). There is nothing wrong with being proud. However, I really don't understand why everyone feels the need to add their heritage before the country they are a citizen of. I don’t walk around saying I am Italian-American or Irish-American or Italian-Irish-American. It doesn't make you any less of who you are to drop the preface to American. In fact, when I hear that sometimes it makes me feel that America and being American is a little less important because it’s been dropped to the back (kinda like the mini-national flags you see hanging from rear view mirrors in cars all alone, no second little American flag beside it). Whether by choice or by chance we ended up in America and considering what is going on elsewhere, we should be shouting from the rooftops that we’re proud to be here and be Americans.

1:55 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Tere said...

DayngrGirl, someone over in Transit Miami made a similar comment, and I responded there with what I hope is some insight.

Gabe, your term "Miamian" reminds me of something. My sisters, upon leaving Miami and all things Cuban behind for college, found themselves missing - badly - their Cuban half. And yet, they realized that what they actually missed was Miami and the strange hybrid of Cubanía and Americana we've created here. Their definition of being Cuban was centered around Miami, as that's the only place they've ever known, and here they grew up with that hybrid that's both confusing and comforting. My childhood friends who have moved elsewhere have also experienced this.

3:37 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous Henry Agueros said...

To dayngirl.
I `m sure that most Cuban-Americans are very proud of the Nation that we or our children were born in. That why a large percentage of us have served in the military. Yes!--change in Cuba is going to come from within Cuba. Thats a fact. Its also a fact that many Americans of Cuban heritage or Cuban-Americans as you cant understand many of us calling ourselfs,WILL have something to do to help that change take place ASAP. As far as the comment on you not understanding why people go around saying" I`m Irish- American, or Italian-American or Arminian American" is because many times others want to know.
In my case I consider myself to be 100% American but I am often asked what my background is. Here is where Cuban-American comes in. Its not that big a deal. Or maybe I should ask.....Why is it for you?

3:58 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous Miami Transit Man said...

That was done on purpose, It was not the intention of the article.

I think Tere Summed it up well here:

...And yet, they realized that what they actually missed was Miami and the strange hybrid of Cubanía and Americana we've created here. Their definition of being Cuban was centered around Miami, as that's the only place they've ever known, and here they grew up with that hybrid that's both confusing and comforting....

5:06 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous hsilio said...

Miamians, a breed apart.But for us native born Cuban Americans it is home(even for those from Jersey, NY and the west coast!) I can only attribute the uniqueness of our outlook on life to the isolation we have at the tip of this penisula from the rest of the nation, and of course, the constant injection of culture we get from not only Cuba now, but the rest of Latin America.

My identity on being a Cuban American was molded by this city. I came from an era era when Miami was still very nautical, the keys were very virgin, the fins were undefeated, and Cuban AM radio was in every Cuabn home, waiting for the green light to go home. My Cuban cousins from the island had there experiences on the island which I can't share, but I get to experience it through them on my turf. That is what I think of when I think of Miami. I love Miami and even though many of what I grew up with is lost, it is what made me and my identity as a Cuban and an American.

I carry my Cuban American/Miami everywhere and show it off, even after this crappy series of sporting events this weekend! It can be a bit much for the rest of the nation, but screw them, Im from Miami, not flipping Minnesotta! We truly are a breed apart.I haven't resided in Miami in many years, but I always long for my two-three weeks there, (something about bad customer service and long lines everywhere that get old after three weeks!)But still, it is one of my favorite cities in the US(but only November through May too damn muggy June through October!)
You know, I almost forgot. Even though I don't live there physically, virtually now is another thing!

5:45 PM, September 19, 2006  

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