Sunday, September 9, 2007
Where do you come from?
Every so often, I have a student who will ask me, "Where do you come from?" At first I hesitate and wonder, "Why does it matter?" However, out of courtesy I answer, "My parents are Cuban, and I was raised in America." Some students accept my answer and move on to something else, but others want to know more, and at that moment I realize my answer needs explaining.
With a name like Cueto, I expect to be asked those kinds of questions. However, Cueto is not my name. It is my husband's name and his father's name and so on. But, I must admit that it is more than just the name that clearly reveals I am different. My hair, my skin color and even my nose reveal that I must be from somewhere else. Then, I think, "Are we not all from somewhere else? Where did the pilgrims come from? Where did the explorers come from? You get the idea.
Although I was not born in the United States of America, America is all I know. In the 60's my parents left all they had--homes, businesses and family-- in search of freedom. My mother and father understood what Castro had in mind for Cuba, and if you lived on the island today, you could see why. I was only a year and half old when we left, so I remember nothing of my birth place. All I know is what my father and mother told me as I got older.
We had distant relatives in the U.S. but no real close family, so my parents moved to New Orleans, Louisiana and there my brother was born. I remember New Orleans, the house my parents saved to buy, the catholic school I attended and my neighborhood park. In New Orleans, we were alone. Some immigrants today are fortunate to have family or even close friends they can turn to for guidance and assistance. We were not as fortunate. My parents, both in their 30's, had to learn English in order to work, to buy bread or to catch a bus. No one spoke Spanish where we lived, and when someone did, that person became a friend forever in our home.
I have never visited my birth place, but oh how I have heard stories of its natural beauty. The stories I wish to have never heard are those that caused my family pain and suffering--the execution of my uncle when he was 18 years old because he spoke out against the revolution or the confiscation of my father's many homes and business. Only out of curiosity or out of respect for my parents would I consider a visit when Cuba is free.
Recently, I discovered that my great grandparents on my mother's side were from Argentina. My great grandparents from my father's side were of royal descent in Spain. Yes, there is even a town in Spain named after my great grandparents.
So where do I come from? I come from the land of the free, the land of opportunity, the land where I can be anything I want, have anything I want and say anything I want. My God I hope everyone knows just how incredibly blessed we are to live in a country as great as this, for there is no place in the world that I would ever rather be than here. This is my country; this is where I am from. I am an American. Georgia O'Keeffe said it best, " Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. "
Live FEARLESSLY and honor those who sacrifice for you.