I’m about to be really honest.
I don’t usually like to post things that are controversial. I’m not a confrontational person and I don’t speak my mind a lot. I feel vulnerable and incredibly afraid to write about something so deeply personal. But we all have our moments, I suppose, where something compels us to put our thoughts down in some medium, and express things we’ve kept bottled up inside. Tonight, I’m sitting at my computer unable to sleep. For me, today’s protests in Cuba hit me in the heart.
See by writing about this I’m not trying to express an opinion, or be confrontational. I’m just writing about my family, my family and their unique experiences. I’m sorry if it offends anyone, I do speak about disturbing events so if it’s not something you want to read at the moment, I totally understand. Our story is not always a pleasant one. It’s not anything except what it is. Our story. Our reality. Their story is Cuba. It’s mine, it’s theirs, it’s many other friends and people I know. And for the ones who can’t speak their truth anymore because they were silenced, it’s theirs especially.
I was born in Florida. I have never seen Cuba. I have only seen it in photos, and heard about it through memories. We can’t go. I ache for it, it is something in my blood that is a part of me but remains elusive and unreachable. An idea, a memory, a painful sore place that never heals. It’s real, and it hurts. But for us Cuba is not a vacation. It’s a very real reminder of the family and friends living there, people close to us with no food and sometimes not even enough to wear, dealing with widespread power outages, a collapsing medical system and no voice. It’s not a tropical paradise. For our loved ones in Cuba it is not a vacation from a brochure. It is not a fun trip and a selfie with an old car. For us that is simply a fact, unpopular as that viewpoint may be. It’s our truth.
My family left after the Cuban government took their home and all their possessions. My mother left by airplane, my grandfather left on a raft. They all came in their own way and in their own times, when they were able to escape. And thank God, they all arrived safely. I know not everyone has been so lucky, and I am so grateful every single day for the life I have. I have been truly blessed.
The stories were long, and they were sad. My grandmother especially was the storyteller in our family, she told me these things gravely, with few tears. She told me because she believed that I had to know. I’m very grateful to her for it. Growing up, I heard about my great-grandfather’s time on death row, he was jailed for owning a business. I heard about the casualties of the government, tortured and left for dead on my grandmother’s doorstep, a family friend who had spoken out. The friend who spent 20 years in political prison for disagreeing politically. The child shot dead in the water by the government as their family tried to swim to freedom. They had to leave their child’s body behind in order to save their children who still lived.
These are the people who make up our friends and family. People with loved ones, with dreams, who felt and feel pain, people who died with no voice. For years I’ve lived with these memories, keeping them alive. To be honest, I’m afraid that if I don’t repeat them, that they will fade away. That everyone will forget. It’s one of my greatest fears, to fail them. I’m the one who is supposed to write stories. I will never forgive myself if I let them down.
I can’t do much. All I can do is tell our story, our story as Cuban-Americans. One day I hope to travel back to Miami to collect their stories for a book. I’m desperate to preserve these incredible accounts, it seems like every year we lose another elderly family member. I live in the Southwest now, and it’s hard to travel back with work etc. I regret it every day that I haven’t done it yet. Hopefully 2021 will be the year.
My family, my family who has seen so much, I am so grateful for you and for your courage. I hope to one day be as strong as all of you. Thank you for teaching me to be grateful, and about ferocity and strength in the face of adversity. Cuba Libre always and with all my heart,