At least for my family it did.
Being the first generation born in the United States, I have an interesting perspective on celebrating our Nation’s Independence Day. While my American counterparts were free to hang out with friends at the beach, eat bar-b-que and light up fireworks, my Cuban born family usually had other festivities in mind. None of which included me hanging out with friends. The Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day, was meant to be celebrated together, as a family.
Both sets of my Grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late 1960′s, almost ten years into what would become a brutal dictatorship. As political refugees, my parents and their parents fled to the United States to escape the persecution existing in their homeland. The political climate had become too hot for even those without efficacy to ignore. The Cuba they loved, the Cuba that flowed through their veins, was no longer a place they could call home or raise their families. Once in the United States, they were provided resources and rights as residents, and as they established their lives in Southern California, became citizens as soon as they were allowed.
To say that my family loves being citizens of the United States would be an understatement. For much of my young life, I would argue with my Grandparents, wanting so much to be Cuban like them, only to be told that my birth right was American. First and foremost.
Americano-Cubano, is what they used to call me. Or quite simply: Americano. Whereas my younger self thought they wanted me to reject my Cuban identity, maturity teaches me that they wanted me to take ownership and honor the identity that was mine by birth.
As an adult, I began to hear the pain in my Grandfather’s voice when I would ask about his hometown, or how my Grandmother would close her eyes to remember the small house in which she became a wife and then mother. Had Fidel and his army not rode down from the mountain tops that January day in 1959, I am fairly certain my family would have never left their beloved Cuba. For as much as this Nation has given them, for the gratitude I have had instilled in me towards my birth country, Cuba still lingers in their heart.
My Grandparents paid a steep price to live an independent life, and in the process changed the course of my existence entirely. After over 50 years in the United States, my Grandmother would never leave the land that has afforded her ample opportunity. She loves being an American. And I agree.
I know this reality is not true for all Latinos. I know our country is not perfect. We have many battles to fight and on many fronts. But on the Fourth of July, I will remember the price my Grandparents paid, and the price so many others before them have paid in order to live a free, independent life. I am honored to be called American. And yes, Americano too.
© 2011, Multicultural Familia. All rights reserved.