Why a Hispanic family chose to immigrate to the U.S., what they left behind and what they learned from this experience
Immigration, among other choices, are sometimes difficult to understand. But they also represent defining moments that make us – as well as those around us – who we are.
It’s a simple axiom: The choices we make help define us.
When I was a year old, my mother and father, for example, made what must have been the most difficult choice of their lives. They decided to leave their native Cuba, and they remain an inspiration to me because of this.
My father could have stayed in Cuba when Fidel Castro took power and become one of the “chosen ones” in the new regime. His brother, Armando Hart, was selected to be the first Minister of Education for Cuba under Castro and later served as Cuba’s Minister of Culture.
Instead of sacrificing his own personal morals and ideals, my father chose a greater path. He was detained for a time because his beliefs and values were different from those of most Cuban citizens, including several of his own family members. He and my mother believed in a system that was not completely controlled by the government. They believed in a system that rewards hard work and takes care of its citizens. They believed in a way of life that supports individual vision as opposed to a government whose singular vision left no room for individual beliefs or values.
That’s why we chose immigration.
Life hasn’t been easy for my parents. It was painful for them to leave their country, their friends, their families, their books and their customs, all because a dictator took power. My father and grandfather told stories about the horrors of living in a nation with a leader who viciously struggled to hold onto power. A regime that generates thousands of exiles is not a “Martiano” regime. (“Martiano” is derived from the Cuban hero José Julián Martí Pérez. Martí is considered one of the great turn-of-the-century Latin American intellectuals.)
The regime failed to create a unified nation. Instead, its policies went against the fundamental principles of the pursuit of happiness and individuality. My parents chose to escape the widespread injustice that followed.
The so-called “humanistic” revolution was neither humane nor revolutionary. Moreover, like its predecessor, the present regime disrespected the most basic civil rights and offered nothing but a terrible mix of manipulative promises, and it has no tolerance. The permanence of power is its sole strategy. There’s no doubt that history will condemn this system. Experience has taught me the value of individual freedom and the right to free elections, which is fully consistent with the beliefs of my family.
Family, Culture and Beliefs
Though many years have passed since the day my family left Cuba, my mother and father still remember with affection the years they spent in their homeland and the generations of family that lived there before them. They speak kindly of my great-grandfather, describing him as a man with extensive judiciary knowledge. Originally from Georgia, he began his career as a modest judge in the small town of Trinidad, Cuba, where he was a justice for many years. He then became a magistrate and, ultimately, the President of the Supreme Court.
Despite his success, he was troubled and depressed because two of his sons, Alberto and my father Gustavo, left their homeland because they didn’t subscribe to the principles of the last Cuban revolution of 1959. This pained my great grandparents, who believed that people should be tolerant of different points of view. Above all, they believed that love of family is more important than any ideology.
Cuban Culture and History
For decades, my family has lived in the United States, yet the Cuban culture still thrives within the walls of our homes. My mother and father tell us about how their parents taught them to play dominoes, to cook and enjoy Cuban food, and to listen to and appreciate Cuban music. We talk about the world chess champion José Raúl Capablanca, who was born in Havana, and how he was dubbed “the Mozart of chess” for his precocious genius.
These Hispanic stories – heroes, histories and foods – are still a vital part of my family and will remain alive as we continue to remember our heritage. I know now that it must have been extremely frightening and difficult for my parents to leave behind everyone and everything that they knew. However, I also know that they believed in a better life for themselves and a better future for their children.
And their choice of immigration helped define them, as mine do me.
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