Today’s Must Read

From Ninety Miles Away:

If someone died, you would make a collection from the handful of Cubans you knew. No one actually had the money to bury the deceased. In coming, you gave up the possibility of ever seeing your family again, unless you were fortunate enough to have them come later. It was only much, much later when Fidel needed money that the possibility of family visits arose. My father left Cuba in his twenties. It would be decades before he laid eyes on the father who had single-handedly raised him. His brothers, he never saw again.

And the shame. I wish I could convey the corrosive nature of the discrimination we faced. From the time that I could walk through the front door to go out and play for fifteen minutes (my father worked in a factory overnight and needed his sleep), I was taught that I must be perfect. Any failing on my part, any misbehaviour or disrespect, would immediately result in my being labeled a “Spic.” The reputation of whole peoples rested on my fragile, four year old shoulders. If my mother spoke Spanish to me in a store, it would result in looks of disdain nowadays reserved for smokers.

Our three room apartment in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, where I slept on the couch, had been rented to us in error. They had mistaken my fair-skinned father for an Italian. No one wanted to rent to Hispanics, even in Miami, which was a sleepy, decaying town, the glory days of tourism having left. In the summer, it was basically closed down, except the little hotels with two ghostly retirees rocking on the front porch. I know, I was there in ’65. And there was nothing as gray, as dead, as depressing as Union City, perhaps that’s why the first Cubans were allowed to settle there.

Read the whole thing right here.

4 thoughts on “Today’s Must Read”

  1. Cross posted at Ninety Miles Away:

    Your essay is outstanding in its purity, honesty and candid splendor. I know EXACTLY how you feel brother, I went through similar predicaments myself, although by the time I arrived at the USA in 1974, some minor “improvements” had been achieved, in no small part as a direct result of the labor and sacrifices of Cuban compatriotas that had preceded us. These are painfully truthful accounts of what we have had to put up with.

    Originally, my family settled in Newark, NJ, I moved to Union City in 1978 and lived there for less than one year at 44th Street and New York Avenue, my employer relocated to the lilly white boondocks of Western Union County, home of many upper crusty blue blood Democrats and given that my beautiful wife of less than one year and me could not get an apartment in boondocks gringolandia, we had to settle for returning to Newark, where a significant Cuban community existed at that time, we’ve been there to this day. Our three children attended Lafayette Street School in the Ironbound section of the city, the same elementary school that Daisy Fuentes attended, the same Daisy that has recalled being called a “spic” not only there, but also at Harrison (small municipality in West Hudson County, geographically North of Newark’s Ironbound section, easily accessed via the Jackson Street bridge) High School.

    I wholeheartedly concur with your essay, the “historic exiles” deserve the respect that they have earned and I for one, will never forget what them and us have gone through.

  2. Being born in the USA of Cuban emigre parents and living in Irish Italian Queens NY I used to think “spic” was my middle name. My father was a dentist and artist and very cultured man same with my mom but it was hard for me as a child nontheless – and I even looked “Italian” but it didn’t stop the ethnic democrat party voting whites (even the nuns at school – thanks Sister Margeret Rose for your not so kind words due to my un Celticness) from bullying me and putting down my parents – also the chosen urban New York City elites, the ones who marched in the civil rights protests of the 1960s, the New York Times and New Yorker readers also hated us and looked down on us us because we would NOT fall into the stereotypes and victimhood other “Latinos” used to get ahead. But despite everything I am proud of having Cuban parents and also of being American.

  3. Sorry moderator, can you delete what I wrote above – I want to edit at home and add a few more things to it – this is a valuable exchange.

    Thanks and sorry for posting too prematurely.

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