"And next, on Cuba..." the newswoman's voice trailed off as my heart snapped out of those metaphysical ponderings which usually occur when you stare out of an airplane window at 30,000 feet.
Cuba? What on Cuba?
If you know me at all, you know I am a Cuban American. You know because I tell you, most likely near one of our first meetings, that my parents and grandparents immigrated from Cuba as Castro took over, leaving everything they knew and loved behind--including their childhoods, their families, and any small comforts of familiarity or community.
I carry their stories on my back, cut into my skin, like a medal of honor. I will wear those purple bruises--the ones my father must've worn as he walked to school without shoes--with pride. I will wear those darkened black bruises from the bananas my mother used to search for in the trashcans behind supermarkets, with her family. Her father worked two jobs and her mother took care of five kids who barely spoke the language.
I carry those stories with pride, even while I get mistaken and labeled "white"--which, by the way, sometimes feels like the brutal stripping, beating, and death of my parents, and my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles, and my cousins, and all their struggles. I am a Cuban American, and my blood finds its source--and found its life and first breath--in those purified memories, stories, and heritage of plantain fields and stolen chickens.
My first language was Spanish because Abuela raised me while mom and dad went to work. Café Cubano, frijoles y arroz, and trying to pronounce things like the other kids in kindergarten; until, finally, I unlearned the story that I was born speaking, accenting, and clumsily,--but happily--imitating.
I've been fighting to relearn, revive, and reclaim that story ever since I realized what it cost. Celia Cruz, Jose Marti, Mildred Arenado, Jose Arenado, Carmen Sotolongo, Pedro Sotolongo.
CBS reported as I shoved each of my headphones in, and clicked the volume up as high as it would go. The President's announcement--and the US change in policy--came out of nowhere. Eighteen months of secret talks; the Pope was in; Alan Gross was exchanged for Cuban spies. Russia (Putin) is happy; and they have been "courting" Cuba for months.
The Castro regime has a new lease on life.
I will not do much in commenting, because far more educated and qualified people--who have lived through it, or put the proper political commentary in--have already spoken.
Yoani Sanchez, a Cuban blogger I have followed since middle school, says that "Castroism has won." (She has been beaten, numerous times, for posting blogs about what life--and life under the Cuban government--is actually like.) The Washington Post Editorial Board also titled their commentary article, "Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout".
Regardless of the chatter on both ends, I think the whispers still echo true from fifty years past, no matter where you stand (or where you were born). They are the voices of my parents, and my grandparents, and my family (related either by blood or stories). They are all, still, chanting softly: Cuba libre.
And I whisper with them, a proud daughter of Cuban immigrants, feeling the repercussions of oppression still in their tired eyes, and lost family stories. I whisper with them, feeling as if--somehow--I've lost something too. Because I have.
And I fight everyday to reclaim it.