What the 4th of July means to an American son of Cuban refugee parents

Every 4th of July I think of my Cuban refugee parents. They are no longer with us, but fortunately, their legacy and the values of freedom they instilled in me remain as strong as ever, especially on Independence Day.

Although they were both from Pinar del Rio, they met, fell in love, and were married in Havana in 1956. A year later my sister was born and less than two years after that my brother came along. Both of them grew up dirt poor during the depression era, but as a couple with two small children in Havana, their hard work paid off and lifted them into the middle class. In 1959, however, all their freedom and all their hard-earned accomplishments were stolen from them by a brutal and criminal communist dictatorship.

With their freedom gone and everything they worked so hard for ripped away, they made the incredibly courageous decision to spare their two children the misery and oppression of socialist tyranny and seek freedom in America. And freedom is what they found and embraced in this extraordinarily generous and magnificent nation.

I didn’t come along until a few years after they had arrived in America. I was the first of my family to be born in the U.S., something my parents never let me forget. My father constantly reminded me how lucky I was to be born an American, to be born in freedom, and to be a citizen of a nation where my liberty is protected and guaranteed. He knew firsthand what it felt like to have one’s freedom taken away, to live under a totalitarian communist regime with no regard for life, let alone human rights. As a child, the full gravity of all this was difficult to grasp. But now as an adult, I can fully understand why my father deemed it so important and constantly reminded me of my good fortune. He himself experienced how fragile freedom can be.

Growing up, everyone in my extended family called me El Americanito (the little American). For them it was point of pride; someone in the family had the good fortune to be born into and be a citizen of the greatest nation on earth. It was annoying to me as a kid since I couldn’t fully appreciate the significance, but now it’s very clear.

It is because of my parents why the 4th of July has a very special meaning to me. Every Independence Day I think of how they risked everything so their children could grow up in freedom, so I could be born an American and never have to worry about my freedom being stripped away as it was stripped away from them in their homeland. The 4th of July celebrates freedom, and my parents celebrated freedom every single day of their lives in exile here in the U.S.

Thanks to the sacrifices my brave parents made, I have the privilege today of being an American and celebrating Independence Day. It was all they ever wanted for us, to be free. Gracias, Mami y Papi.

1 thought on “What the 4th of July means to an American son of Cuban refugee parents”

  1. Cuba wasn’t supposed to have a middle class, just rich oligarchs and peasants. The middle class nonsense had to be eliminated. Now things are as they should be: there’s the ruling class and the slaves.

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