By Yvette Marie Mesa
"Iam Cuban-American but I was born in Miami, Florida." This is my response every time I am asked, "so where are you from?" But is my response correct, am I Cuban-American or is this just a word my Cuban parents taught me to say? Well, as an American raised child, my first word was mama, not mom, and the first language I learned was Spanish, as a matter of fact I began school needing to repeat a grade because it was difficult for me to begin learning English. Yet as I progressed in school, English became my dominant language, so dominant that I was making more mistakes having a conversation with my grandmother in Spanish, than in English with my school mates. I even began speaking to my parents in English, although they always spoke to me and answered all my questions in Spanish. This became something funny to my friends that would comment on how amusing it was that I spoke to my parents in English and they'd respond in Spanish. But as I grew older all this became second nature, I had even met other people that were in the same predicament. But all this did not become such a big issue till the day I was told , "so what are you, Cuban or American? You can't be both."
I just stood there for a few brief seconds, till the person interrupted and said, "So well, where were you born?" I responded, "Miami, Florida," and the lady wrote down , "American." For the next few days all I thought about was the irony of the situation. I had always responded "Cuban American," but this person just took the "Cuban" part of me and I suddenly felt that there was something wrong. My parents always told me I was "Cuban-American," and their explanation was because my blood is their's and they are "Cuban," yet I was privileged enough to be born in the United States and therefore that is from where the "American" part comes from. I thought this a logical explanation, after all I was in my mother's womb for nine months, I inherited my fathers blood and I was raised with Cuban customs and tradition, so there was no other way about it, I was "Cuban-American," and I would never deny this notion again.
Well as time passed and I met my boyfriend, now husband, I began questioning things more. He was born in Cuba, but came to the United States when he was one year old. He spoke English all day long, yet when his mom called, it was "Que pasa mami?" I became more fluent in Spanish just by going over to his house. There all one spoke was Spanish. Where as in my house my parents were fluent in both languages so I'd speak in English and they could decide in what language they'd want to respond. Yet it all came down to the day my husband applied to become an American Citizen, and was pronounced a citizen of the United States, along with many other people, in an inaugural ceremony in the Miami Beach Convention Center. As I sat there looking at all these people raise their right hands and become citizens of the country I was born in, I was not only immediately proud to be an American but even prouder for all these people in front of me wanting to become American Citizens. But at the same time I was also sad because as the announcer congratulated all these people, he called them, "Puerto Rican-Americans," "Cuban-Americans," "Asian-Americans," and so on. I was immediately back in that office with the person writing, "American," on my application and understanding that maybe she was right. So I went home with this notion, and never thought about questioning it again. Well at least never questioning it again till, I questioned myself.
I am proud to be an "American," proud to be in this land of freedom and equality, but I am also proud of the achievements of my ancestors , my "Cuban" ancestors, I am proud of all the "Cubans" that have come to this country and prospered, the Cubans that like my father in law came to this country with nothing, but his son in one arm and wife and daughter in the other, and now help run this country. So why should I deny myself a name that is rightfully mine. The blood that runs through my veins is blood that originated in Cuban soil, and although my certificate does not say; place of birth, Habana, Cuba, I feel that part of me is from Cuba just like part of my children will be from Cuba too.
"So what are you, Yvette? Well I was born in Miami, but my parents are CUBAN, therefore I am Cuban-American."
Copyright 1999 yara!
By StoneCuban.Com© 2007