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A Closer Look: Hispanic Heritage Month

Nichole M. Perez

My abuelitos played an active role in the Cuban revolution when the Castro regime was attempting to take over Cuba's leadership from Bautista. My abuela assisted people in an underground railroad of sorts to escape oppression from the Bautista regime. They believed Castro was going to change their country for the better. They were so happy when Castro took over but five or six years later they realized life was worse in Cuba than it had ever been and they had been filled with empty promises. My abuelo knew that he had to get his pregnant wife and children out of that country and come to America to have a better life for himself and his family. Luckily for them they won a lottery and were able to leave Cuba on a plane together.

I am proud to be a Hispanic American. I am a first generation Cuban American. Many people are puzzled when I tell them I am half Cuban because at first glance you may not be able to tell that I am Hispanic. People often say they think I am of European descent, which I am as well, but once you hear my last name there is no mistaking that I am Hispanic. I identify with the Hispanic culture the most. I grew up in an English speaking household and I am not fluently bilingual. I also grew up listening to Latin music, learning to dance to Latin music, eating traditional Cuban cuisine, and following traditional Cuban cultural norms. My abuelo speaks very little English so I learned enough Spanish to communicate with him as a child and have learned so much more as I grew up. My fondest memories are celebrating birthdays and holidays with my large Cuban family.

Although I did not grow up in that country, I did grow up with the traditional cultural norms. I had a quince which is a traditional fifteenth birthday party where a girl steps into womanhood. Every Christmas my family celebrates Noche Buena where a pig is roasted all day in a fire pit and traditional foods are eaten. Christmas morning was always spent at home with my parents and in traditional American fashion. I had the benefit and the best of both worlds. I am so grateful and proud to have both of those sides. I learned to work so hard and never take anything for granted because I see how hard many of my family members have worked to leave Cuba to come to America. The most inspiring part to me is that they always keep their culture alive while adapting and adhering to life in America while never forgetting where they came from.