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Point of View: My 90 Miles

Many Cuban Americans have singular memories of life in Cuba, while 2nd- and 3rd-generation Cuban Americans only have stories and pictures. Find out what it means to be Cuban from these Cuban Americans.

Unlike some other ethnic groups who have moved to the United States with the intention of starting new lives in America, most Cuban Americans consider themselves exiles, not immigrants. They fled to America with the intention of returning to their homeland when the government they disagreed with was replaced with an alternative. It's been over 40 years since Fidel Castro rose to power. Not surprisingly, many Cuban Americans have put down significant roots in the U.S. Some have children — and sometimes grandchildren — who only "know" Cuba from the stories their parents and grandparents have told them.

We asked some "90 Miles" viewers who are Cuban Americans to share their stories. What does it mean to be Cuban? What does it mean to be Cuban American? If you came here from Cuba and have spent a significant amount of time here, what is your relationship to the U.S.? If you were born here and haven't ever set foot in Cuba, what is your vision of Cuba? Here's what they had to say.

Marisel Sanchez Walston:

My father left Cuba in 1970 when I was 4 and my sister 3. We did not see him again until 10 years later. He went to Spain thinking that once there, he could get us out in a year or so. We were finally able to leave in 1979 thanks to Jimmy Carter. My parents made many sacrifices to ensure that my sister and I had a better life. I am always thankful for the choice they made even though it was very hard on them. My family is mostly in the U.S.; however, we still have some back in Cuba and we try to help them the best we can. There is an enormous guilt every time I examine my life and theirs. My cousin in Cuba, a chemical engineer, works as a waitress in order to bring home dollars. The sorrow over lost family members that we were never able to see that one more time before they passed on, the family mementos that we do not have, etc. I rejoice in the fact that by living here, working hard and being successful, I am honoring my parents decision to bring me to the land of the free and the brave."

En Español:

Mi padre dejó a Cuba en 1970, cuando yo tenía 4 años y mi hermana tenía 3. No lo pudimos ver por 10 años. Él viajó a España con la idea de que podría sacarnos del país después de un año. Por fin pudimos salir del país en 1979 gracias a la intervención de Jimmy Carter. Mis padres sacrificaron mucho para asegurarse de que mi hermana y yo tengamos una vida mejor. Siempre he estado muy agradecida por la decisión que tomaron, aunque esta decisión significó muchas dificultades. Casi toda mi familia se encuentra en Estados Unidos, pero aún tenemos familiares en Cuba y tratamos de apoyarlos con todo lo que podemos. Me siento increíblemente culpable cada vez que pienso en como se desarrolló mi vida en comparación a la vida de ellos. Mi primo en Cuba es un ingeniero químico pero tiene que trabajar como mesero para traer dólares a su hogar. Me da mucha pena al recordar a aquellos familiares que no pude ver antes de su muerte, o al pensar en los recuerdos familiares que dejamos atrás, etc. Pero me alegra saber que al vivir en este país, trabajando fuerte y teniendo éxito, estoy honrando la decisión de mis padres de traerme al país de la libertad y heroísmo.

Key West, Florida viewer

Domingo, Key West, Fla.:

"My name is Domingo Sevallos. I'm one of the Peter Pan kids. I came in July 23, 1961. I'm fifty years old now, and the older I get, the more I miss my land of nativity, Cuba, a land that I barely knew but I love too much..." (watch video for full comments)

En Español:

"Mi nombre es Domingo Sevallos. Yo fui uno de los niños del Proyecto Pedro Pan y llegué a los Estados Unidos el 23 de Julio del 1961. Yo tengo 50 años y entre más viejo me pongo mas añoro a la tierra de mi nacimiento, Cuba, una tierra que poco conocí pero que amo demasiado..." (ver el video para comentarios completos)

Fernando Landin Jr.:

I am always interested in others peoples' views on how they feel about our beautiful island and being Cuban.

As for me being a Cuban/Cuban American it was hard to return in 1998 after 27 years of living the reality of thinking that I would never set foot there again. It was very emotional. It was an inner struggle for sure. I'm still struggling with the guilty feelings. But it made me get in touch with my Cubanness. You know, there is nothing like our food, our music, our sound, our "sabor," our humor that has always carried us over the rough times, our smells. When I made that trip and realized that I could have made other trips, it transcended me to a totally new place in my life. It brought me home, it gave me a place of belonging.

En Español:

Siempre me interesa conocer que piensan y sienten otras personas sobre nuestra hermosa isla y nuestra identidad Cubana.

Para mi, como Cubano/Cubano Americano, fue muy difícil regresar a Cuba en 1998, después de 27 años con la idea de que nunca iba a volver. Fue una experiencia muy emocional. Fue como una batalla interna. Aún me siento culpable. Pero me hizo acercarme mas a mis raíces Cubanas. No hay nada como nuestras comidas, nuestra música, nuestro sabor, nuestro sentido de humor que siempre nos ayuda en los peores momentos, los olores de nuestra isla. Cuando me embarqué en ese viaje, me di cuenta de que hubiera podido hacer muchos viajes como este antes. Esta realización tuvo un impacto muy grande en mi vida. A través de esta experiencia regresé a mi hogar, encontré el lugar donde pertenezco.

Key West, Florida viewer

Yolanda and Marita, Key West, Fla.,
(mother and daughter):

Yolanda: "Para mí ser Cubana es un honor. La vibración que me da al decir solamente que soy Cubana es algo que me recorre el cuerpo como sí fuera una energía, como sí fuera una electricidad..." (ver el video para comentarios completos)

In English: "For me, to be Cuban is an honor. The vibration within me simply at saying that I am Cuban is something that runs through my body as if it were an energy, an electricity..." (watch video for full comments)

Marita: "People think that Cuba is something horrible, something very poor, but when you go to Cuba it's something very rich and something very important to experience..." (watch video for full comments)

En Español: "La gente piensa que Cuba es un país horrible, un lugar muy pobre, pero cuando uno va a Cuba se encuentra algo muy rico y muy importante a conocer..." (ver el video para comentarios completos)

Key West, Florida viewer

Tony and Iliana, Key West, Fla.:

Tony: "Like my father said, he'll die loving that island nation, but, he's sweat and he's bled so much here that his home is here now. He'd go back to visit and things like that, but... they've definitely lost, I think, a bit of not love for the island but they've lost some of that...

Iliana: They left always thinking that it was just temporary, that they would go back soon...

Tony: Right, but unfortunately it hasn't transpired. But I think it's like a happy middle. They've Americanized and we've been brought up feeling very much part of the Cuban culture, so we've reached our own melting pot there in the middle..."

En Español:

Tony: "Como mi papá dice, el se morirá amando a esa isla, pero el ha sudado y ha sangrado tanto aquí que ahora esté es su país. El visitaria y cositas así pero ellos han perdido, yo pienso, un poco no de amor por su isla si no un poco de ese...

Iliana: Ellos se fueron siempre pensando que era soló por un tiempo, que iban a regresar pronto...

Tony: Sí, pero desafortunadamente eso no ha pasado. Pero yo pienso que es un poco de las dos cosas. Ellos se han Americanizado y a nosotros nos criaron consiente de nuestra cultura cubana, asi que tenemos nuestro propio crisol de razas..." (ver el video para comentarios completos)





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