What It Means
An organization staffed almost entirely by immigrants and first-generation Americans, we at GrubStreet are as keenly aware of the sheer breadth of "the immigrant experience" as we are the crucial contribution immigrants make to American arts, culture, and society. In defiance of an ethics of exclusion, we’re curating a series of immigrant stories that celebrate and illuminate the plurality of immigrant life. This installment comes from writer Christopher Louis Romaguera.
My father is an immigrant. He left Cuba at the age of eleven. Being in Miami meant he could see his island from the Keys. It meant that when mi abuelo came over, my father saw a shell of a man before him. Mi abuelo gave all of himself to send my father to the United States, including his flesh.
Being in Miami meant that my father had to be twice as big and also invisible, because windows contained signs that read, “No dogs, No Cubans.” It meant that mi abuelo would say, “Add to the wall” whenever a challenge arrived. For if you were going to give us an obstacle, we wanted it big as possible, so no one could say anything after we overcame it. It meant that mi abuelo asked the judge, in his third language, whether he really thought a second government was going to get in the way of him being with his son?
It meant that along with my ABCs, my father taught me what words I’m never allowed to be called. It meant that I had to learn how to fight just as quickly as I learned what verbs and nouns were.
Immigrating to the United States means that we can continue as a family, in a country that has rights our prior one did not. It means that we have great respect for these rights, but we also don’t take them for granted. It means that we will use them.
Being a son of an immigrant means I will always work harder, for myself, for my family, “por la raza.” It means being good enough to be accepted by the best, even if our new home isn’t always worthy of the designation.
Christopher Louis Romaguera is a Cuban-American writer living in New Orleans. He has been published in The Middle Gray Magazine, The Daily Beast, Curbed, NOLA Defender, the New Orleans Review and other publications. He traveled South America for most of this past year and is working on his first book. He is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of New Orleans.
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