MIAMI — Cubans are proud to be loud. But, when it comes to racial justice, South Florida’s loudest residents have been awfully quiet. I am proud to be Cuban-American. I am also embarrassed to see that pots and pans have failed to make their way onto the streets as thousands of Americans protest the murder of George Floyd. For once, the clanging is a sound I wish I heard.
The comfort afforded by being in the majority, decades of privileged immigration status, and our collective whiteness made Cuban-Americans feel safe about detaching from social justice issues. If you feel angry reading this, it is meant for you. It is time we had a candid conversation about race and class.
Miami-Dade’s climate has let us live without ever questioning our privilege. Our communities are so segregated, you can graduate high school and count the number of Black classmates you ever had on one hand. You can go a lifetime without ever realizing you were born into a legacy of internalized racism that predates the founding of the United States. If you even see it, you might even think it’s harmless: your grandparents refer to people by the color of their skin instead of by name. It’s just the culture, you say, “How can I be racist? My grandma is Black!”
The warmth of family has a way of making people honest. I share Christmas dinner (Noche Buena) with kind, respectable, white Latino law enforcement officers. Inviting one interracial couple to this dinner table is all it takes for conversation to reveal racial biases. First, I hope to God that their misguided views do not influence their work. Second, their comportment shows how much the white Cuban community needs to reflect and learn.
Repeat after me: We are not a part of this country’s super majority. We are not a part of white America. While living here has, fortunately, let us shed stereotypes and slurs, growing up here I, unfortunately, heard these stereotypes and slurs be repurposed and reserved for more recent Cuban immigrants, other Latin Americans, and the Black community alike.
I have listened as an older generation of Cubans justify the U.S. repeal of its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy by saying, “The Cubans coming over now are not like the ones that came before.” Insinuating that their poorer compatriots do not deserve the same opportunity that they had. They use the same policy’s existence to create an artificial difference between Cubans and other Latin Americans, to paint Cubans as more deserving of asylum in the United States. Now that nothing exists to differentiate Cubans from any other group of Latin Americans fleeing violence or political oppression, what mental gymnastics will you do?
As a second-generation Cuban-American, I can never truly understand my predecessors’ struggle. The pain that the Cuban Revolution caused is still felt. After all, the revolution only ended in 1959, five years before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
The wounds of white Latinos scab, while the Black community’s wounds sting.
It is time to wake up.
Too many Cuban-Americans have fallen for the siren song of fascism. The events of the last week alone demonstrate that what you ran from —censorship, violence against dissidents— has reared its head here. Where will you go next?
The self-proclaimed Freedom Fighters need to show up for Black lives.
Manuel Gorotiza is a Cuban-American writer and recent Brown University graduate currently back home in Miami. He plans on continuing to write about law, politics, and culture, as he begins his studies as a law student.
Go back to Boston. You don’t belong here.
Brown is in Providence not Boston.
Dear Manuel, I think YOU need to ” reflect and learn”. #1 Cubans do not LIKE to be loud. We are loud at times.. it is part of our culture, genetics, upbringing.. but we are not ALL loud nor do we enjoy being LOUD! . #2 Older Cubans do not denounce the Wet Foot Dry Foot policy because they feel that new arrivals should not get the same treatment that they did. They denounce it because they feel ALL immigrants should be treated the SAME.(just as BLM is asking now for blacks!) The first Cubans who arrived here were fleeing Communism. #3 Cubans who arrive now have grown up in the Communist system and are fleeing poverty, lack of basic necessities and lack of opportunity You do not name the epithets however if any “”older” Cuban has anything to say about this new influx it is that it is sad that they have been forced to grow up in in a socialist country and (sometimes) have become accustomed to survive by seeking benefits from the government or by finding ways to cheat and do things that are wrong.. #4 Cubans who have come to this country have never demonstrated, rioted, set fires or destroyed property. They have been too busy trying working to support their families. They have gotten off public assistance more quickly than any other group in America… and this applies to the older generation as well as the later arrivals! Please check FACTS before throwing stones. Glad you mentioned that you are a second generation Cuban. That explains a lot. .. but please do NOT say that you are proud to be a Cuban American. It is an embarrassment to the rest of us.
Thank you for taking the time here and in your email to identify yourself and share your views, that’s brave. My intention remains to open up an uncomfortable conversation. I’m glad we can have this exchange. It is easy to slip into generalizations when we talk about groups. What I wrote comes directly from my in-person interactions, let’s call them “unofficial interviews”. As you suggested, I did even more research, which I am eager to share with you. You also referenced your closeness to Jewish culture in your email. I’ve studied Jewish history and poetry. I’ve been welcomed at many Shabbat dinners.
#1 Cubans being loud – Gladys, that’s our chutzpah! So many Cubans, myself included, embrace it.
#2, #3 When I refer to “older Cubans” and their sentiments, I’m speaking from repeated instances where first wave Cuban-migrants have explained to me clearly, sometimes crudely, why they view emigrants from the Mariel exodus, Balsero crisis, and Post-soviet migration as undeserving. While you, a first wave Cuban migrant yourself, hold a more compassionate view, not all your peers think that way. Cubans today not only face poverty, but they still face authoritarianism (el Comunismo)! I think we can both admit, our people speak frankly, sin pelos en la lengua, you would be shocked by what I have heard.
#4 In 1980 and 1987, Cubans did riot, violently. Look up: “Cuban Refugee Camp Is Quiet After Rioting That Injured 58” from the Washington Post and “Cubans Riot, Seize Dozens in Atlanta : One Dies, Prison Set Ablaze; Meese Offers to Reassess Refugees’ Cases” from the LA Times. I couldn’t find anything to support that Cubans get off public assistance faster than any other group. I found that there is a trend of abusing the welfare system – legislation in 2015 was proposed to curtail that. I also found that Jewish activists were tragically murdered for participating in the Civil Rights Movement. Look up: “Freedom Summer murders”, there is a good article on PBS. I sincerely want to learn as much as I can – I checked facts. Thank you for bringing up these good questions for me.
I am a second-generation Cuban, if we knew each other, you’d know that the assumptions you made about my upbringing are far from the truth. I’m not mad at all. I simply believe that our community, you and I, we can all do better. We can start in our own lives by showing up for others when something is wrong: not letting it slide when someone says something racist or “Go back to where you came from”, for example.
I hope you’ve seen that I have thought about this deeply, that I respect you, and that I don’t throw stones – I would much rather make un cafecito (which I’m proud to say I make very well!) and talk.
With warmest wishes – Manuel
What a thoughtful piece. I’m so impressed!
Cubans come in all colors and we are the same for all and, apparently you do not know the plight of your grandparents well we overcame prejudice signs that said no Cuba’s here etc and know that since ancient times this is Cristina and built a life better for our children and if you bother to search YouTube you will find that many Cubans from black decent have sopken out against the injustice not only by the cop but by the rioters … these are Cubans that have been here I imagine less than 15 years, you know why bcs they respect the law … and second take a look at some reallty videos from Cuba where they are living in inhumane conditions in The Cerritos in Havana not even running water that is where all Cubans need to protest not change the laws for a country that accepted a migration from a Communist country