Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Cubans brought to Miami

We were exiles, not emigrants, and we were only going to be here for a brief period.

We were told that, with the help of the United States, Fidel Castro would be taken out of power and things would soon return to normal, whatever that meant in the island's turbulent political reality.

As budding Cuban exiles, it would therefore be our duty to make learning Spanish and adhering to the culture and customs of our parents, a priority. There would be no melting pot for us.

Instead, we lived a very insular life, a Cuban life in the heart of the US. Americans - or los Americanos as we called them in Spanish - were those people we occasionally came into contact with on the street: the teacher in school, the man at the bank or the colourful characters on television.

I remember quite clearly, for example, how at the Cuban-run kindergarten I attended, we would sing the Cuban national anthem every single day and how we spoke much more of Jose Marti - the Cuban national hero - than we ever spoke of the father of the US, George Washington. Even Santa Claus spoke in Spanish when he came to our annual Christmas party.

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