Every year on Hispanic Heritage Month, I connected with a few Cuban-American writers and friends on social media venues. That was my first clue something was off. Why was I doing this only during Hispanic month? Am I not Cuban 365 days a year? So, why wait for some arbitrary calendar date to act on my hispanidad or Cubanidad?
Still, we got to talking about many Latinx topics affecting our people in the current political climate – from children in cages to colorism within our own homes & communities- and I got to thinking…
Am I Cuban enough? Should I wave the metaphorical flag of my people more? Should I be louder?
Am I too Americanized? Too assimilated to remember the pure joy of a strong cafecito, the addictive sweetness of pastelistos de guayava, or a Noche Buena feast and its Cuban staples?
And, if I don’t dance salsa anymore, am I Cuban enough? If I don’t speak Spanish regularly (except for the time with my mom), am I Cuban enough? If I don’t cook our Cuban food, and instead make chicken Parmesan, am I Cuban enough?
If I don’t pass down my Cuban-ness to my kids, if they don’t salsa or speak Spanish or know their heritage, how do I call myself a real Cuban?
At first, I thought myself open-minded, allowing my kids to make their own traditions; likes and dislikes. But, in doing so, have I stripped them of their heritage? Their sense of place in the world? Their roots? Granted, my kiddos are mixed babies (their papa is a black man from Philly) so they share another history too; one he hasn’t foist upon them either.
Don’t get me wrong, my children know they are half Cuban and half black, but as cultural traditions go, they know very little about what it’s like to be either. only in recent memory, now that they are in their early twenties and starting to engage with the current political, environmental and socio-climate around them, have they started asking questions and become more curious about their origins.
Have I shed too much of what defines me? That which defines my family? My children? As a Cuban, born on the island and raised in Miami (who has lived all over, from Connecticut and NYC to Hawaii) , I sometimes feel I am very far from what I was supposed to be. So far from the world I was born into. As I continue this identity quest, I will explore these and many other deeply personal questions. It is time I had the testicular courage to embarked on this difficult journey of self discovery and figure out how Cuban I really am? Or at the very least, how Cuban I am comfortable being. (TO BE CONT.)