Independence Day

Happy 4th of July to my fellow American readers!

As usual, it is rainy and overcast on July 4th in Miami, FL. *shrugs* You get used to it, kind of. All the major holidays in the summer in Miami will invariably feature rainclouds. Heck, the summer itself will invariably feature rainclouds. But I guess I shouldn't complain and enjoy today's holiday for what it means: independence.

That's a word I don't often think about in my day-to-day life. You see, I've realized I take my freedom for granted. I was born with it and have never known life without it.

To give you a little bit of my own background, I was born in the United States to two immigrant Cuban parents. They came as teenagers with their families just as Fidel Castro was taking power. This was back in the 1960's, when Cubans were still allowed to come on planes and not have to resort to riskier methods like they do today, like taking a raft or (I kid you not) getting a car to float because their government would not let them leave. Several of my own students are Cubans who came to Miami that way. I hear their stories of coming by raft in the dead of night and trying to evade circling sharks and the Coast Guard in order to make it to shore. As the "wet-foot/dry-foot" policy goes in the states, so long as the Cubans reach dry land, they can stay. If they are captured in the sea, they have to go back to Cuba.

When my parents arrived with their respective families in the '60s, they didn't have to resort to such risky measures. But that doesn't mean that they weren't leaving for the same reason as today's Cuban immigrants -- they experienced some of the same oppression under Fidel. My mother had two aunts jailed for no reason other than the government didn't appreciate their owning their own business (a grocery store). And it wasn't like any Cuban in the '60s could just up and leave when he wanted to -- you had to receive special permission from the government, or as it's called, la loteria (the lottery).

I can only imagine what that kind of life must be like, that kind of oppression. I can only imagine the difficulties my family endured upon immigrating to the states: having to learn a new language, having to learn to navigate a new way of life. I was born into this way of life and it's the only one I've ever known. I've never been to Cuba and none of my family has ever been back. Truth be told, they don't want to. They hear enough from more recent immigrants about how much their country has changed to know there's no good dwelling in a past that no longer exists.

Today for perhaps the first time I truly recognize how fortunate I am to have my independence. I don't know if I'll ever go to Cuba -- part of me is curious. However, because of the embargo and ironically enough because I am an American citizen, I am not allowed to go to Cuba anyways. I hope this will change some day in the future, just as I hope Cuba itself will change. I don't believe like many Cuban-Americans do that Cuba will change overnight as soon as Fidel Castro dies. I think that kind of change does not happen overnight. It will more than likely take years. Hopefully some day, I will be able to take my children if not my own parents back to Cuba so that we can see where my family originated.

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5 comment(s):

Heather said...

Ana, what better way is there to celebrate the 4th than to spend a moment in grateful contemplation of how lucky we all are to live in a nation where freedom is so pervasive it's often taken for granted. Here's hoping that same freedom is something we eventually see as a world-wide right.

Happy 4th!!!

ApplesnFeathers-Susie said...

That almost brought me to tears. It makes me happy to see that people still appreciate Independence Day for something other than fireworks. BTW its raining in Kentucky too lol

Angela Lynn said...

Great post, Ana!

I often think about how ridiculously blessed and ignorant I am when it comes to freedom.

It took going to a third world country to realize how horribly self centered and out of touch I truly am. It's so important to acknowledge where we came from, how we as a country earned this freedom we take for granted and not only celebrate it, but "honor" it. By fighting for others, by treating it with the respect it deserves and by taking an active role in our communities.

Oh geez, soap box Ang! Sorry. Did I happen to mention I love this post? I do. Truly.

Kavi said...

Super post. Freedom gets a new meaning when reading what you have to say !

And i wonder how things are with you..these holidays. We are having some super special rains here as well !

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I'm back! Had a great trip fersuure, but glad to be back. Must catch up on Protag (:

That's quite a history there. Rather interesting, I must say.

And I know it was yesterday, but still, Happy 4th of July! Gawd, I miss the fireworks in Philly... Le sigh.