Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Soledad O'Brien: What dare I think about Cuba?

Soledad's mother and grandmother in Cuba, 1944

Soledad O'Brien wrote an opinion piece on the CNN site about her Cuban mother and her relationship to the country she left in light of the recent change in the United States own relationship to Cuba.

My mom left the island to escape the poverty, the racism and the sweltering heat. She left before Fidel Castro's ascent and U.S. politics had hijacked foreign policy. She left before both governments stranded thousands of people on a communist island suffering a punishing boycott.

Her departure was not about politics. She was black and poor and looking for an opportunity to study. She was just 14 when she left her family to live with the Oblate sisters, an order of black nuns in Maryland. She never looked back -- because she just couldn't. That's when my family's disconnect from Cuba began.

My mom almost never ever spoke about Cuba, not about her culture or her distant family, not about the life before she met my dad, another immigrant, and they had the six of us. For me, and the thousands of people like me who lost touch with Cuba, this is what Thursday's news is about. A president born 10 months before the boycott -- the 10th president during Castro's rule -- has finally given us a chance to see for ourselves what our parents left behind.

President Obama is banking on younger Cuban Americans like me to be more open to change than the angry exiles from the first wave of immigration. He also relies on statistics showing six in 10 Americans want the United States to have ties to Cuba. The Cold War has passed, and to some younger people from all walks of life, the issue of Cuba is old news. The anger toward Cuba no longer makes sense. He is letting us get a real look at where Cuba stands today, hoping the anger toward that nation will subside, even as some Republicans hope it will not.

What does this change mean to her?

I can visit my family, do some reporting and writing, visit a church or take a class. I can go to a concert and share a drink. I can even take home some rum. I know the politics are complicated. I haven't forgotten about Castro and the many people I've met here and there who can never forget the past, or the excesses of the present. But the question hovering above all this is not just whether reconnecting our two countries was the right thing to do, it was whether it will expand the cultural, political and personal view that the two have of each other. I think so -- it has for me.


read  "What my mother left behind" by Soledad O'Brien on www.cnn.com
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