I don’t remember the first time I felt like a real Cuban, but I know it was somewhere in my thirties.
It was as if my roots played a haunting melody of homecoming and called to me in such a fervent way and I was finally able to understand the language in which they spoke to my inner sensibilities.
My lineage of a distant Taino bloodline, mixed with the Moors of Spain genes that were sprinkled in my history, forced me to reclaim my place of home that had been ever so dormant in my soul.
The battle cry of the many who had shed tears of blood and sweat to afford me a better life in exile, now rang true in the silent halls where I had buried my nationality.
Having grown up in the United States all of my life, it was a feeling that was foreign to me until that moment when the surge of patriotism for the land of my birth hit me and hit me hard.
I felt Cuban. I was Cuban.
I am Cuban.
Yesterday, those proprietary feelings of homeland pride rushed to the surface of my core as I read an article in The New York Times outlining the decision to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
I was immediately torn, my emotions running the gamut from indignant for all those whose lives were altered in pursuit of the defiance of communism and the quest for freedom to joyful that I might someday be able to, literally, go home again.
No doubt, there would be winners and losers on both sides of the dialogue, there would be hurt feelings across the traces of hope in the beacons leading toward change and there would be discord amongst the once friendly. There would be gulps of bile to swallow amongst the tangible, sweet seeds of reform and somewhere in between, this bitter sugar would flavor the elixir of change into a more palatable proposition.
But we are not a silent people and our collective comprehension that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, has never been our strong suit. This has always fed the fire of our sounds of protest and yesterday was no different.
This is the passion associated with a transition of this nature. It is an unavoidable discourse, that is at once necessary, to remind us that decisions of this magnitude do not come without repercussions of spirit or a vivid recollection of the tragedies that defined and defiled our exile for the past fifty-five years. We are a broken people who found repair in the bosom of another flag of red, white and blue so similar to our own and we must continue to embrace its shelter.
We pledged allegiance to this flag when the thought of ‘…next year in Cuba’ became a distant reality for our parents. We assimilated. We grew up. We embraced the ninety-mile distance between Cuba and the Florida straights and saw it as this great, insurmountable expanse between two mother countries who would never see eye to eye.
And then yesterday happened.
While nothing and yet everything was altered, the threat of hope was planted front and center on our battlefield, adopted and birth mother facing off for the first time, the possibility for the first layer of change had been peeled and presented to the world – it was ever present as leaders spoke and the vast audience, amid protests and cheers, listened.
Yesterday, with me now closer to fifty, a little under twenty years from the first time when I first felt my Cuban heritage claim my being, I was a proud Cuban again. This morning, I still am.
I worry about what is to come. I’m hopeful about what may come.
But I still am.