Mi Vida. Mi Tierra. Mi Cuba.
My Life. My Land. My Cuba.
A country that for 26 years I have longed to know and am finally getting the chance to visit. As a product of Cuban immigrants, my decision to go has been nothing short of a difficult one but one that I have selfishly made anyways. I am sure you must be thinking, “How can you go? How can you hurt your family by going to the place they escaped to give you a better chance at life?”
Since booking I have read countless articles about what a terrible human being and even worse Cuban I must be for even entertaining the thought of stepping foot into Cuba. There is a side of me that completely agrees and that side fills me with the guilt I have felt since booking my ticket. The guilt feels like I am carrying a bag of bricks up a steep hill, each brick weighing me into the ground the further I go. Yet, I am still going. I am going to CUBA.
This was an extremely emotional decision for me to make, one that has caused me many tears and one that I knew my family would not agree with. So why am I going? For 26 years I have heard countless stories about our beautiful Cuba. Stories from my mom, my aunts, my grandparents, and family friends. Stories that described a place full of history, culture, great music and even better food. Stories of how my grandparents fell in love and how it took another man asking for my abuela’s hand in marriage to get my grandfather to finally propose. Stories of my aunts and uncles on the breathtaking beaches of Varadero. Stories of the lives that were lived in a country I’ve never known, a country they loved but had to leave behind.
I have never considered myself “American” by any means, I have always been very proud of where I come from and while I may have been born in the US, I am Cuban. Now, this does not mean I do not love my country, I love the USA and I am so grateful for every opportunity this country has given me. Without my family coming to America I would not be where I am today. I consider myself more Cuban than American simply because of the environment and culture I was raised in. A culture full of Cuban traditions, mantras, and some superstitions (i.e if you sweep your feet with the broom by mistake you’re not getting married LOL). I love everything about our culture; the loudness, the food, the music, and the people but I have always felt a certain disconnect to my roots. A void that I feel can only be filled by visiting Cuba.
This trip means so much to me. I have only dreamed of the day when I would be able to visit Cuba and while I hoped it would be a free country when that day came, I cannot turn down the opportunity I have been given to go. This isn’t a vacation, this is a trip where I hope to learn as much as I can about the country I hold so dear to my heart. I’m not going for the mojitos or Cohibas, I’m going to connect with the people and immerse myself in their reality and culture. I will be the first of my family to “return” to the island, and while I continue to think about just canceling my trip I would only be punishing myself. This is an experience, an experience that I have no doubts will be a very special and emotional one.