When I found out early this morning about the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, even though I had been prepared for the eventuality of the day, I was still in shock.
After that shock passed, an incredible sense of sorrow filled my heart. I immediately thought about my father who passed away a year and a half ago at the age of 92. I thought about how I would have loved to have seen him witness this day.
Then I thought about the thousands of Cuban men and women who have lost their lives after nearly six decades of Castro’s rule, searching in one way or another for what some of us take for granted: freedom. I thought of the broken and separated families, political prisoners and thousands of people who died crossing the Florida straits.
What would my father have said about this day? If I were to guess, he would have reflected about how grateful he was to this country for having opened its doors to him and thousands of so many other men and women like him. He loved this country. He lived many more years in the U.S. than he did in Cuba, but Cuba was always a part of his heart. My parents instilled in their 3 children a pride in our heritage, culture and language but at the same time, a love of this country. I think I grew up with the best of both worlds, a strong sense of where I came from and a sense of gratitude and pride for the country I was born in.
As I look back at my childhood growing up in Little Havana, I believed there was nothing I could not achieve, and I always strived to make my family proud because I knew they had sacrificed so much so that I could have the opportunities that they had to give up.
November 25th will forever be etched in the hearts of Cubans here and on the island for different reasons. The significance may vary depending on whom you ask. For me, the eternal optimist, I believe that this could be the catalyst for better things to come, a hope that the island that is only 90 miles to our south will once again be the Cuba that my parents and grandparents always talked about.
My husband and I have always tried to instill the same values that our parents instilled in us to our 4 children. They are second generation Cuban Americans, who continue to strike a balance between the customs of their grandparents as both Cubans and Americans.
There is a sense of sadness behind all our joy today, thinking of those who are not physically present to witness this historic day. However, I believe as loud and festive as the celebrations are on the streets of Miami, the one above is louder still.
When my two oldest children heard about the news, they felt compelled to go to the closest place to that faraway land they have never been to, Versailles. They were there along with other pots-and-pans-clanking people, singing and dancing. I felt an incredible sense of pride, and I know my father is looking down at us with that glimmer in his eye thinking "WE DID GOOD.”