The Life of a Refugee

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Analyzing the mindset and hardships experienced by Cuban-American refugees, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are nuances based on different generational groupings. Most belonging to our parents’ generation have never adapted to life under the Anglo-Saxon culture. They either continue living with the hope of returning to a Cuba Libre, or they have given up all hope of a better tomorrow and are just counting their days for a peaceful transition to a better afterlife. I’ve written about this generation at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140521143849-11570625-nostalgia-for-cuba-s-past-a-difference-of-generations?trk=mp-reader-card.

Then, there is my generation – the one who left Cuba as a youngster. I left when I was 11. We have assimilated to the American culture – but, up to a point. We have never forgotten where we came from, and we continue fighting – each, in his/her way based on his/her talent base – for a return of freedom and democracy to our homeland. We do this as a debt owed to the sacrifices that our parents went through to ensure that we grew up in the land of free and the home of the brave.

And, finally, there are those of Cuban-American parents who are born in the United States. Some care deeply about their parents’ homeland, while others develop amnesia as an act of rebellion. Cuban-Americans who have never forgotten where their families come from, like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, find out that regardless of the fact that they were born in the U.S., others still look at them as foreigners, as not American enough. And, once they find out about this anomaly, they embrace a hybrid identity of “no soy de aquí, ni soy de alla.” They become citizens of the world, where doing the right thing becomes more important than where you or your parents come from.

Following is wonderful ode to refugees by Angelina Muñiz-Huberman – born in France to parents who fled the Spanish Civil War. After living in Cuba, the Muñiz family moved to Mexico City. She holds a Ph.D. in literature.

“MARIA ZAMBRANO. Castillo de Razones y Sueño de la Inocencia” \ Dr. Angelina Muñiz-Huberman

“El exilio es un fenómeno consustancial con el ser humano. Desde el primer exilio, que lo fue de carácter divino – la expulsion del Edén – hasta todos los que le siguieron, de carácter histórico, han sido la piedra de toque de pueblos y personas. Se ha considerado un castigo más refinadamente cruel que la prisión o la de negarle un espacio propio. Adán y Eva adquieren la muerte al perder el Paraiso. Quien sale al exilio, sale en busca de una muerte sin tierra. La condena es el eterno vagabundeo y la conciencia precisa del paso del tiempo. A la vez, adquiere un esperanza inviolable; el anhelo del retorno. De lo que se trata entonces, es de llenar el tiempo, un tiempo que no vale, en un espacio ajeno, para recuperar el verdadero tiempo y el verdadero espacio. Y he aquí que la manera perfecta de llenar ese tiempo y ese espacio es por la preservación de la memoria. Es uno de los sentires del exilado la idea de recrear la vida, del ciclo que se vuelve a empezar, de la rueda de la fortuna incesante. Debe probar ante sí y ante los demás que lo desconocen su propio valor, su proprio signo vital. Cada dia que pasa rehace su identidad. Es un solitario señalado, un Caín inocente. El estado de exilio es un estado privilegiado que pone a prueba lo mejor de cada mente; exacerba la reflexión y la imaginación. El exilado se sabe sobreviviente y como tal debe cumplir con ciertas obligaciones: una de ellas es recoger y transmitir su tradición, su historia, y otra es dejar huellas en su paso. Se convierte en un ejemplo de lo que Maria Zambrano llama el vencido que vence. Y vence con la mejor arma: la inteligencia, la lucidez, y la lejanía.

Poco a poco se despoja de la passion y adquiere la serenidad y la objetividad que solo un trance extremo procuran. Prdríamos decir que el exiliado es un aprendiz de Job que se ampara bajo su sombra. Por algo Maria Zambrano lo escoge como el símbolo de lo que habrá de perdurar cuando llegue el momento, al igual que las simientes del extraño pájaro abandonado en la arena que luego habrán de crecer y elevar su vuelo sobre los demás seres. CUM TEMPUS FUERIT. La apuesta del exiliado es con el tiempo. Para Maria Zambrano el exiliado pertenece al grupo de los BIENAVENTURADOS, como es el título de otra de sus obras. En ella, las palabras adquieren la cadencia de la mística y eligen la vida de la depuración. El exiliado ya no es exiliado en esta tierra. Es el exiliado que adquiere la categoría de la transcendencia. Que ha sido visitado por un rayo iluminador y que ha aprendido a vivir el abandono. Para escalar la cima de la sabiduría y conocer cual es el sentido de su vida, desplazado y despojado, continua desprendiéndose de cada una de las capas de la incongruencia y de la insensatez.

El exilio es el punto final con el pasado: el congelamiento de una forma de la conjugación verbal; es la adquisición de la mortalidad. Pero nunca será la pérdida de la memoria; el pasado es una negación, no un olvido. Y la condena es, precisamente, conservar la memoria. El paliativo, desarrolar el principio de la esperanza y proyectarse hacia otra forma verbal inexistente; la del futuro, donde cabe cualquier sueño de la inocencia. Es decir todo exilio repite la pérdida de la conciencia de un presente desconocido. Sobre todo, expone una herida incicatrizable; la identidad ha sido perdida; en el término mismo – exiliado – está borrado el concepto de nacionalidad, de patria. Ha perdido su identidad y no had adquirido una nueva, llegue a donde llegue ha quedado fuera de lugar. Su ser es un ser expuesto a la vista de los demás.

En palabras de Maria Zambrano: “El exiliado es el que mas se asemeja a lo desconocido, el que llega, a fuerza de apurar su condición, a ser ese desconocido que hay en todo hombre y al que el poeta y el artista no logran sino muy raramente llegar a descubrir.” Carece de geografía, de sociedad, de política y hasta de ontología. O mas bien acomoda en el interior de su ser todo lo perdido como una posesíon inolvidable, la única permitida. En el mejor de los casos, lo transmuta por medio del lenguaje simbólico. Para Luis Cernuda muere la vida en ajeno rincón. Pero también podría decirse que quien nada tiene, lo tiene todo.”

Coso, Chorizos and Chicharos

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“Vale,” Dad’s voice came through a little shaky over the phone. “Are you very busy today? Your Mom is driving me crazy and I need some help.”

Mom had been having serious bouts of dementia and Dad himself wasn’t feeling all that great. “I’m not that busy today, Papi. I’ll swing by around lunch time.”

His voice perked up a bit. “Gracias, mijo.”

It would be my very last telephone conversation with my father.

I finished up some paperwork, replied to a couple of emails and rescheduled my afternoon appointment. Now, in retrospect, I realize I should have been happy that Id get to spend an afternoon with Mom and Dad, but the truth is, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Dad was in a lot of pain. His back and hips were causing him all kinds of hurt and he was very frail. It was difficult to see Dad, the big, strong ox, so weak, so thin, so helpless. Mom wasn’t doing so well either and adding to that was the dementia, which had gotten progressively worse in recent months.

I called Dad back as I left the office. “Did you two already have lunch?”

Dad said he’d had a little something but Mom hadn’t eaten. “Your Mom says she is going to cook. Chicharos.”

It had been months if not years since mom had taken to the kitchen and while I welcomed a steaming bowl of Mom’s chicharos, you never know how the food a person with dementia cooks will turn out. “I’ll swing by the Latin Cafe,” I told him. “pick up a couple media noches and for you a Latin 2000. It’s like a Cuban sandwich but with chorizo.”

“Ok,”he replied. “Sounds good.” You could never have too much food, according to Dad.

When I got to Mom and Dad’s, sandwiches in hand, Mom was in the front the front porch, staring out the window. “I thought you were your Dad,” she said. “he still isnt back from work.”

Mom thought Dad, who was sitting in his recliner watching tv, was Dad’s Dad. “Your father left me with the old man,” she told me. “And he looks ill.”

Dad and I laughed through the sadness about it. “She’s been like that since yesterday,” he said. “Driving me nuts.”

I broke out the sandwiches even though Dad said he wasnt all that hungry. I knew once he saw the chorizo, he’d eat. And he did. “Este sandwich esta empigau,” he said. “Dont eat the other half. I want it for later.”

Mom was tinkering around in the kitchen, searching in all the wrong places for everything she’d need to make the chicharos. She’s lived in this house over thirty years, cooked 2 or 3 squares a day, every day and couldnt even remember where she her pots or pans, her spices, spoons or anything else.

For the very first time in my life, at the age of 49, I helped Mom cook chicharos. The very same chicharos she’d pour over my head when Id refuse to eat them as a kid.

Dad napped most of the day while I chased after Mom. She kept pacing back and forth, going out to the front porch, bitching and moaning that Dad was late from work and he wasnt answering his phone and he was supposed to be home already and what if something happened and maybe I should go look for him. To say that witnessing this, living this, is heartbreaking is an overwhelming understatement.

I could not imagine what it must have felt for my Dad to live through this. To see his wife of 60 years mentally deteriorate to such an extent and he not be able to do anything for her. Dad could barely stand, he could hardly walk and for a man like my father, who spent his life protecting and providing and caring for his family, it must have been relentlessly devastating. The weight of the world on his shoulders.

Mom returned from one of her forays to the porch and suddenly recognized Dad. “When did you get home,” she asked. “we’ve all been waiting for you.”

Luckily or as I like to think by design, the dementia had given mom a short reprieve in the late afternoon and she went and sat next to Dad. She cupped his face in her hands, combed his white whisps back behind his ears and kissed his big hands. I could tell Dad was fighting back the tears but for those fleeting moments, they were so happy to see each other again.

“Coso,” Mom whispered to Dad. “I made you chicharos. Do you want a bowl?”

Dad said he thought she’d never asked. “the aroma was making me hungry.”

I helped Mom find his tray, set it up and serve him a bowl of chicharos that Mom and I made. Dad savored every bite and asked for a little more. “Este potaje esta de competencia.”

A couple hours later, Dad would have a pulmonary embolism, we would call 911 and Fire Rescue would take him to the ER.

He would never see his home again.

When Every Second Counts

A fascinating look at just a second from every day out of a year that we would typically throw down the memory hole in the whole contest of just one day, let alone 365…

From The Blaze:

Three hundred sixty-five seconds. It’s amazing how just one second a year adds up and can give a glimpse into someone’s life.

That’s all Matt Skuta gave us as a look into his past year. But it’s enough to show us, as the Daily Dot put it, “that even in a year without major, life-changing moments for us, even the most mundane seconds have meaning.”

That Which Makes Us “Special” Makes Us “Exceptional”

I just had to post this. Please meet Miss Rion Paige, an F-5 tornado

WOW! Miss Paige’s singing talent aside, can you imagine if today’s non-challenged kids had even 1/2 the spirit, attitude and determination this young woman has?!? Make no excuses. Never allow anyone else to make excuses on your behalf. Just find who and what you are and do it.

You go, girl!

HT: The Blaze where there are more videos of Rion singing through the years.

El Rookie

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A great piece on Marlins All Star pitcher Jose Fernandez at Grantland:

He first saw it about five years ago, while he was floating on a boat about 10 miles from shore — lights stacked on top of lights, all spread upward and outward, wrapping around a piece of land that stretched north and west for several thousand miles more. He knew little about the city. He knew it had Cubans — the lucky few who had succeeded in making the trip he was now attempting. He knew it had baseball. He had heard from some that life there was easy, from others that life there was hard. Either way, he knew he wanted to go. And he knew that, on this night at least, he would never make it to shore.

Because as close as those lights were, Fernandez saw another pair of lights that were much closer — lights from a boat belonging to the United States Coast Guard, just a few hundred yards away. “When you see those lights,” Fernandez says, “you know it’s over. You hear the stories about those people. They’re incredible at their job.”

Their job in these waters, at least since the United States changed its policy in 1995, is to send Cubans back to where they came from. The law is odd, but simple. If you’re a Cuban defector who makes it to U.S. soil, you can stay. If you’re caught in the water, you go home.

Fernandez was caught in the water. The Coast Guard would send him to Cuba. The Cuban government would send him to prison. That would be fine, Fernandez thought. He just needed to survive. As long as he did that, someday, he could leave again.

Read the whole fantastic thing, right here.

Love, Loyalty, and Devotion

Amid the rising flood of scandal and controversy I found this bright beacon…

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From Newsmax:

Today, June 5, Nancy Reagan placed Pope John Paul II Roses at the gravesite of her husband, President Ronald Reagan, on the ninth anniversary of his passing. The flowers were picked from the garden of a dear friend and chosen specifically to honor the extraordinary relationship that was forged between President Reagan and the Pope during the 1980s.

The Pure Brilliance of Dr. Benjamin Carson – UPDATED

A good friend suggested I look into the CSPAN video of the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast from this morning, and fast forward to the address from Dr. Benjamin Carson, director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

In under a half hour this learned and accomplished man said more and made more solid sense than Obama has in his entire adult life building for himself a political career. Dr. Carson knows what this nation was built on. He knows how this nation is supposed to run. He knows how the people of this nation are supposed to be a part of it. And he makes no apologies or excuses for his bluntness that these key things are not being done and that is why we are failing. He even says political correctness is a major problem in this country. You cannot help but feel and know Dr. Carson’s words and parables were aimed at Obama and at the Washington D.C. elected class on both sides of the aisle. The man, in my friend’s words, is a national treasure. More people should hear from Dr. Benjamin Carson. Here is your chance…

Rush Limbaugh: “Sleepy Obama Sits Through Prayer Breakfast Where Dr. Benjamin Carson Blasts Obamacare”

Keith Koffler @ White House Dossier: “Obama Treated to a Full Plate of Conservative Thought”

Twitchy: “ICYMI: Dr. Benjamin Carson’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast”

UPDATE: Excerpts from the movie “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story”

You can view the entire movie here on YouTube.

The Gentle, Loving “Nana”

I just had to share this incredible video.

This little Peter Pan has his very own patient, attentive, and devoted “Nana”

You can see an extended version of this interaction (without the music bed) between the little boy and the Golden Retriever here.

Recently there was the story of a lost 10 year old Down syndrome boy that was found by a mother dog looking for her pups. The puppies had huddled with the boy through the night, keeping each other warm. Around the same time a 4 year old Down Syndrome boy in New South Wales became lost in the bushlands with three of the family dogs. They too loyally stayed with him through the night, barking out when they heard the humans searching for the boy. Turnabout is fair play when a 7 year old girl with Down Syndrome saves a dog from drowning.