Growing up Cuban in such an Italian centric community made me feel a little like an outsider. Everyone would rave about their Pasta Sundays with family, wear their "Italia" zip up jackets back in 2007, and brag about their grandma making the best Italian cookies. I insisted on not learning Spanish at a young age, and I wholeheartedly regret that. I was so invested in the idea that I had to follow the social norm of my community, so I became infatuated with Italian culture. I found it hard to dedicate myself to
However, I now appreciate how special my cultural heritage really is. I wouldn't want to be anything but Cuban-American.
My great grandfather, Clavelito, was a famous singer in Cuba. He held a status of social prestige, similar to someone like Elvis Presley. There were even songs written about him, like the infamous "Agua De Clavelito."
JOHNNY PACHECO-AGUA DE CLAVELITO.www.youtube.com
I remember growing up and being eager to hear more stories about my cultural background every summer when I'd visit my grandparents in Florida. Florida always brought the Cuban out of me. My grandma would tell me all about her father, Clavelito, and how everyone worshipped him and he was the entertainer of the time.
Moving on from the 1950s, my mother was born. Even though I wasn't born yet, this part of my family heritage is the most important. Fidel Castro was about to start his reign of power when my family decided to sacrifice everything: including wedding rings, clothes, and ANY other personal belongings to make it to America.
Castro's "army" was starting to break into houses on command to take whatever they wanted, kill whoever they pleased, and destroy families day by day. The price was paid for whomever went against Castro's ideals. This happened to my family's home, yet there were several pictures around the home signifying that Clavelito was of relation to the Arias family. Castro's countrymen allowed my family to escape, making it possible for them to get to New Jersey.
Here's where I come in:
I grew up in New Jersey, but I visit Miami, Florida, every single summer. The majority of my family lives there, and if you've ever visited, you'd know it's known as Little Havana. As I previously mentioned, it brings out the Cuban side of me, that most of my friends don't see often.
My great aunt made a decision that I was going to be a coffee drinker around the age of..... ONE YEAR OLD. She'd put coffee in my baby bottle without telling my mother, (sneaky), and I became, well, addicted. To this day, I try and make Cuban Espresso every morning and it's not even for the caffeine. At this point in my life, it's a small taste of my culture that I deeply enjoy every morning. Café con leche is a primary staple in Cuban culture. With some Pan Cubano at breakfast, now that's the perfect meal.
I loved every single meal (and still do) that was fed to me. I was always told that when I grew up I'd be an expensive date because of how my taste buds only reacted positively to wholesome cooked meals and spanish restaurants. (Whoops). The bistec, congri, empanadas, platanos, pastellitos, lechon, OH MAN. I guess I can't settle for anything less.
Ugh, the music and the dancing. Going to family parties has always been a blast because I can never fail to count on the excessive rowdiness and positive energy that fills the air. If it weren't for my family introducing me to the carefree, fun side of life, I'd be much different at year 19.
Dominos. If you ever get the chance, visit Domino Park en Calle Ocho (Miami, Florida). Then you'll understand the importance of Dominos amongst Cubans. We take it seriously, we play it as a family every night, it's just become second nature. My grandpa taught me how to play at a young age, as most grandparents teach their grandchildren.
The importance of family is my favorite thing about my heritage. I plan on passing down everything I know to my future family. Overall, I am so proud to be Cuban. I will embrace my culture until the day I die.