No Soy de Aquí, Ni Soy de Allá
Cuban Blogger Yoani Sánchez got exposed to insults of “Down with Yoani!” over the weekend during her stay in Puebla, Mexico, from a group of demonstrators who thought that her latest remarks during her recent tour gave a negative perception of the Cuban Government.
Sánchez indicated that she has a lot respect for the word “freedom.” Some of her readers may think that she is a liberal. But she confided her greatest allegiance was with the poor of her homeland – considering that this is where she comes from. And, yet, others think that she is a communist or a leftist. And who would have thought that Jesus Christ was nothing more than a liberal or a leftist when he proclaimed that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Labels can be misleading. American voters looking at the party affiliation of Cuban-American Senator Bob Menéndez (D-NJ) may think that he is a liberal on all his views. And yet, this is not the case. When it comes to taking a hardline posture on Communist Cuba and on keeping the U.S. embargo, Senator Menéndez is as conservative as his Cuban-American Republican counterparts. And when it is time to tally the votes to maintain a hardline posture against Communist Cuba in the halls of Congress, we need all the votes that we can muster regardless of the party affiliation of these congressmen. Very few laws would get passed if we only danced mambo with congressmen belonging to one political party.
And thinking about Yoani, labels, and Senator Menéndez made me meditate tonight about my ethnicity. I am a hybrid of two cultures – the Cuban culture and the American culture. I love both of my heritages, and I will never renege on any of them. Like the late Argentine singer and composer Facundo Cabral would say “No Soy de Aquí, Ni Soy de Allá” (I Am Not from Here, Nor from There). My loyalty is to the truth, to freedom, to “democratic” ideals, to fairness, to always siding with the underdogs of this world – because I have always been an underdog in this world.
And so, I’d like to share with you a poem that I read back in 2010, and that some of you may have read before. But it resonates with me every time that I read it because it answers that existentialist question of “Who I Am?” – a question that I, and I’m certain many of you, have asked repeatedly.
And the most compelling thing about this poem is that it was written by Sonia Guerra, and I have no clue about Sonia’s nationality (although I would like to think that she’s a fellow Cuban-American), and I don’t know anything about Sonia’s religion or political views. And I don’t care! What I do care immensely is that every time that I read Sonia’s poem, I feel that “I’m not an island, but a piece of the continent.”
*WHO AM I?* / by Sonia Guerra
I am the product of two cultures.
I like to think of myself as the perfect mix of both.
The point of harmony between beliefs...
They've labeled me "Cuban-American".
And like the hyphen in this supposedly single phrase,
I see the separation, feel the distinction.
I am not truly part of either..
For some I will always be a "minority".
Despite my education and place of birth,
I cannot - nor will I - hide my heritage,
and so I return to "my people".
I find open arms of welcome in my Anglo world.
But the blood that we share is too thin;
We are the same, but not one.
Lost to me is the history of my parents' homeland
I feel no tie to a forbidden land, or to relatives I
will never know.
Why should I continually mourn the past?
My life, my future, is in the present.
Across the water is a nightmare, a constant bad dream;
And I am not Don Quixote.
I cannot relate to the time before "El Exilio",
A time which seems almost mythical in its perfection.
For me it is just the melancholy ramblings of the old.
I sometimes ache with need,
the need to forget my Anglo teachings
To be able to join my elders in their fond memories.
To be able to go back in time and space,
Erasing my patronizing smile
and exchanging it with a sense of knowledge.
The knowledge of who I am and to whom I belong.
However, no matter how sincere this longing may be,
I cannot - nor will I - discard my nationality.
I will always be a guest in both worlds,
Outwardly welcomed, but secretly hoped that
I will not overstay my visit.
I am content with my life;
My destiny is not distasteful..
I am part of a new breed.
Our speech is sprinkled with both languages,
Switching randomly between both
until we find the "perfect" word.
Our food is international cuisine -
for breakfast we have "café con leche" with a bagel,
Lunch consists of Diet Pepsi and a "media noche",
Macaroni and cheese is inconceivable
without plátanos maduros..
Our holidays are plentiful -
December 24 is Noche Buena,
December 25 is Christmas,
and we celebrate Reyes Magos on January 6.
And though we do not belong to Cubans or Americans,
We belong to each other...
We are not "ellos"…………
We are not "them"………
*THE CHILDREN OF CUBAN EXILES *