Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy is another story about post-revolutionary life for Cubans. In this case, it is a memoir about refugees.
I didn’t read this in Miami. In fact, I often avoided Cuban literature as a child and teenager. I was just too close and I didn’t like the romanticism of first and second generation refugees. To be fair, I disliked the romanticism of Israel for the Jews. It never felt grounded in reality. I often wanted to tell people they shouldn’t go on and on about going back to Cuba. I just didn’t think it would happen.
I still don’t think it will happen. I have, in my own way, romanticized life in a place my family left. I quickly realized my memories mixed with the romanticism my mother assigned to her past, had skewed my ideas of what life would be like. It was nothing like I thought it would be. Not just weather, but people and relationships. I still struggle to ignore the romanticized ideas of what my life will be like and the reality of what it is. As I make plans for my future, I try to keep my plans grounded in reality rather than the fantasy of what it could be like.
I read Waiting for Snow in Havana when I was living in Fitchburg. In the middle of my first winter there (a harsh winter on top of it), I read a book about a young boy from a tropical climate who found himself in Chicago, far away from his parents. It hit home and I was able to feel compassion for Eire that I found it difficult to feel for the Cubans I grew up around. I also learned about things nobody spoke about in Miami: Operation Peter Pan, the children who were taken far away from the world they had known, the refugees who did not end up in Miami.
I still struggle with my feelings for the Cuban American community. I was in Miami during the Elián González custody battle. I had Haitian friends who had family sent back while Cubans stayed in the US because of the Cuban Adjustment Act (basically, if Cubans can get on US soil, they can stay here… other refugees can’t and in Miami, that most often applied to Haitians). Even now I get angry when I watch two Cuban-American presidential candidates (both second generation and one of whom went to the same high school I did- he graduated 5 years before me) fight to keep refugees out of the US, never mind what they say about immigration. It is through literature that I can see different points of view.
Doing the Latino program at work has also helped me remember the wonderful things about Latinos around the country. I have learned so much more about what happened in the Mexican/American War. I think this war gets lost in history lessons because it happens right before the Civil War. In Miami, it was glossed over with a brief reference to the Alamo and then we launched right into the Civil War. We never learned anything about the way Latinos were treated in World War 2 (just as poorly as we treated the Japanese). We never got the chance to cover the battles in the 1960s and 70s in California related to labor and civil rights for Latinos. Why? We were busy covering Cuba. Even then it was brief because there is so much to cover in one year. Revolutionary America, the Civil War, and World War 2 were our primary focuses. Again, this is why I like to read history books. The more I learn, the more I remember the wonderful things that have come from Latinos being part of the melting pot that is America.
If you want to learn more about the history of Latinos in America, I suggest watching the amazing PBS documentary: Latino Americans. It’s a 6 hour mini-series and you can stream it online. It was worth all 6 hours as you learn the things glossed over in your history classes. Additionally, it does talk in better detail about what happened to the Cuban Americans, including Operation Peter Pan.