Celebrating Dia De Los Muertos and my Mexican-Cuban Heritage

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Today is Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a pre-Colombian tradition which honors the dead, and believes that adult souls come to visit their living relatives.

As a child my father would bring home sugar skulls and sweet pasteries and explain this Mexican tradition.  He’d show my brother and I pictures from festivities in his hometown in Veracruz, Mexico, which seemed like a far away land compared to our hometown in Miami, Florida. With my Cuban mother and grandmother we would light candles next to old pictures and small offerings for dead loved ones and pray for them.

As an adult, I prepare a small altar in honor of my ancestors. Remembering them brings me peace and comfort. I take a moment to realize where I come from and the sacrifices made on my behalf by earlier generations.

I may not do the traditions perfectly, but I try to hold on to these important family customs and honor my Mexican culture and my own Mexican-Cuban upbringing. Next to la Virgen de Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas) candle is card of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the patron saint of Cuba). The pictures of all my grandparents, the Mexican ones and the Cuban ones, stand side by side as I honor their lives on this special day.

Looking at the pictures reminds me, I am a proud child of immigrants. I am a proud child of exiles. I am a proud Latina.

In recent days, it seems that reporters and pundits have tried exceptionally hard to put immigrants against exiles, Mexicans versus Cubans. Be it using sloppy reporting or anecdotes, they have attempted to weave discontent in the Latino community, enough to try to give a Mexican-Cuban American some kind of personality disorder.

First off, immigrants come to this country for the same thing, better opportunities. Be it for political or economic reasons they all come to America in search of the American Dream. To those that want to imply that the hopes and dreams of immigrants and exiles are different are delusional and as we say, are buscapleitos (troublemakers.)

Are Cubans and Mexican different? Yes. Are there similarities? Yes. Does each country think that they are better than anyone else? Absolutely yes! Hispanics, no matter the nation of origin (and there are a lot of countries), are proud people. Growing up in my home, and in Miami, Florida, the Hispanic capital of the United States, it was a constant battle I personally witnessed….

In the end, Hispanic Americans are stronger united. The media wants to create divisions and hostility to draw controversial headlines. Latinos have unique and beautiful cultures and by recognizing our similarities and our common hope to obtain the American Dream will we be more successful in this nation.

During today’s Day of the Dead, I honor my grandparents for the sacrifices they made so future generations could be more successful. Gracia abuelos….I’d like to quickly share their stories….

This is my favorite picture of my dad’s father, my grandfather Samuel Inclan in 1946 on horseback in Mexico.

He was an entrepreneur, a cattleman, a farm owner, a politician and a typical strong-willed Mexican man. He had a knack for finding opportunities and started a bus company with his brothers. He tried to provide for his large family, and younger siblings (his father was killed by a political rival). He ensured that the next generation had it better than he did, and instilled in my father the importance of education.

My father’s mother, Nacha, was a lively and resourceful woman. She loved to joke around and was passionate about sports. She looked over the family farm. Though times were economically hard, she always figured how to make “new” clothes for her six children, sometimes made from the old pants of my grandfather. She was an incredibly loving woman, who took in children abandoned by others and raised them as her own. My father loved her deeply.

Below is a picture of my mother’s parents as newlyweds in Cuba. My abuelo (grandfather) Apolinar Rodriguez Rozan, was a businessman and a light weight boxer who loved to dance. Unfortunately he was stripped away from his family for over 14 years, and tortured in Cuba’s prisons.

When my mom was a toddler, together with her mother and brother, she left Cuba because of the revolution. My grandfather stayed behind to tie loose ends and sell whatever they could.  My grandfather, who believed in democracy and refused to become a communist, was forced to become a political prisoner. My mom didn’t see her dad until she was 17. He was heavily tortured in Cuba, which created sever post-tramautic stress when he became a free man. Yet, he was a loving grandfather who regularly read me the newspaper comics. He would pick me up from school after leaving his job as a hotel janitor and we would stop by the store for a treat.

My grandmother, Pradina Aida, was a spunky and independent spirit. She loved poetry and reading. In Cuba she and her sisters owned a beauty parlor and was an incredibly creative spirit. With her husband captured in a political prison in Cuba, she had to raise two children on her own in a new country were she didn’t know the language. She worked in factories, as a seamster, later on owned a coffee shop and had many odd jobs in order to ensure her children could obtain the American Dream. She helped raise me and taught me that in life anything is possible. She made me the person I am today.

In her 70s, she became and American Citizen and was beyond ecstatic to become an “Americana.”

I miss them all dearly. May God protect them and rest in peace. Los quiero mucho

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