I am a Cuban American. I have never been to Cuba but I have been hearing about it my entire life. It was a country of beauty and of progress until the 40 year dictatorship of Fidel Castro under a Communist regime. I think about what might my life have been like if my family had not left. I imagine days filled with so much family and millions of stories about my cousins and I as we grew up. I think about the parks I would have walked around as my parents did when they were young. I wonder what it would have been like to have known my grandparents. Not once in my reflections about what my life may have been like in Cuba am I ever sorry that my parents made the choices that they made. The sacrifices of their life have completely and totally shaped mine. Their losses have been my opportunities. I am educated, well traveled, and loved. I would not trade my friendships, my husband or my beautiful daughter, Lydia for a moment in the imagination of what Cuba might have been. I am tremendously thankful for every sacrifice my parents have made for the hope that I would have choice, free expression, however, that can't be quite it, can it?
Recently, an old student of mine went to Cuba. She is an amazing woman and I enjoy still being part of her life and knowing her as she explores the world. It is her collection of pictures that has sprouted this reflection. I see the sad state of the buildings in Havana, the streets in crumbles, the poverty of the people and the broken hearts of my family creates practically palpable pain around me. A small country that once did so much, is quite frankly looking as small as it is. What can be done? For most of my life, I have shook my head and was secretly thankful that we didn't have the means to visit because it would spare me the sadness that would certainly overwhelm my mom. Now I wonder if there isn't more?
The internet really has done some amazing things, more than allowing me to order cheap diapers and keep in touch with childhood friends, it has given voice to the voiceless. Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban Blogger, only a year old than I. She left Cuba for a couple of years and returned because she missed her family but vowed to live in Cuba as a free woman. She began to blog about the real Cuba. Her blog Generation Y (Y because there was a generation of Cuban people that were named with Y names) is translated in 7 different languages by international partners that have committed to helping her tell the truth about life in Cuba. She has been jailed. She has been beaten. She has been followed. And still she continues to find ways to send her blog posts to be published. She has now begun a Blogging University which teaches other Cubans how to use the internet, blogs and post about their lives. She is trying to empower others to have a voice.
I think about how she and I could have been friends. We could have gone to school together. She and I could have been neighbors. She is giving voice to the missing piece of my identity, the generation of Cuba that I would have been a part of. There isn't much else I know to do, but to support her. To listen to the unheard. To pray for change. To hope for change. To dream for a Cuba that once was. And to someday see the home of my family.