Friday, July 4, 2008

Am I still a Cuban?

Sometimes I wake up –6am in New York, up on a 20th floor, all steel and glass around me- and wonder if I am still a Cuban.

I question myself if so many years away from my birth country might have faded my real account of things, my sharp memories, my true visions, the people I knew, the smells that make places and things so recognizable, the passionate love for a chaotic life -and all that is left is a blurrier and blurrier vision of my first 20 years of life.

But this is a fleeting sensation, created by my morning routine and the blast of early news on television. (How can those jolly anchor people joke and laugh with such joy at 6am? Is this on purpose to get us going with an optimistic step?)

But back to Cuba and my ‘Cuban-Ness -and my sometimes dislocated life as an exile. An exile who has lived longer in my Manhattan apartment than in all my years in Cuba!

It´s all so crazy.

And at the same time it is so wonderful to be who I am. Strangely, living so many experiences, good ones and bad ones, has made me into a person I like. A Cuban-American who became an adult, a wife, a mother and a successful professional in this city that is now so familiar to me. Albeit a city where I still discover things all the time, making New York a challenge, rather than the sweet tropical Havana cocoon where I was born and raised until ‘exile’ began. And life here –definitely harsher and much more enriching than in any other city in the world-- has made me strong enough to almost melt into New York’s world.

But when I am about to feel a 100% American, a true New Yorker, the Cuban-Ness issue changes the equation as the sound of Spanish makes me turn my head when I walk around the streets: a bit of music jolts my body and moves my hips; the smell of food makes me thinks that I should make Picadillo more often, and I should stop being lazy and (as I used to do for my mom) make some yummy Empanadas. And I realize that no matter how much I wonder and question how Latina I am, and how Cuban I am– the confusion is mainly in the early morning hours --and the rest of the day it all falls into place, and I am very much the rebellious Cuban who gets very upset when my country’s issues are misunderstood -and the passing of time turns evil into 'trendy' -and horrors into 'oblivion'.

Yes, when the morning musings fade, I am very much the daughter of my Cuban parents, very much the granddaughter of my Spanish grandparents –and very much the Cuban mother of my Manhattan born and raised daughter, who each day that passes becomes more and more Cuban. And this wonderful girl’s innate love for Ropa Vieja and Celia Cruz -and her pride to speak Spanish as well as she speaks her native English --clears up all my doubts!