“Are you mixed?”
This is often a question I hear when someone hears the pronunciation of my last name.
I always looked for the day this question would no longer touch my ears. Years later, I decided that it always would. I looked of African descent; however, when I wore my hair natural and began to repeat Spanish words I often heard my father say, I began to wonder myself if I was a “mixed” child.
I was 7 years old when my family decided to share the family history. This was when I found out that my father was Afro-Cuban (yes, there is such an ethnicity). There are Cubans of Caucasian descent whose ancestors traveled from Spain, there are Cubans of African descent and there is a small percentage of Cubans of Chinese descent in Cuba. I also found out that my maternal grandmother was the daughter of a white man and a black woman.
This is when I concluded that I was blessed with a diverse ethnic background.
When I was at home with my father, I was accustomed to empanadas and arroz con pollo (rice and chicken). At my grandmother’s house I ate beef stroganoff and Greek salads. In either environment, I felt a unique connection between the two.
Growing up with a Cuban father and a black mother was interesting. My father would sometimes forget that my mother and I spoke only English, and he would slip and say something to us in Spanish. My mother would always retaliate and say “Oscar, we do not understand you.” Even when we are in public, I have to speak up for my father because he’d always get “I beg your pardon” or “I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand what you said.”
What was even more interesting is that my grandmother would even go out and people would ask her if she is black or white.
I began to see that it was only ignorance. Individuals act like they are fascinated by someone of a “different” culture. When I came to this University, people were literally amazed to see that my hair does actually curl up when it’s wet. Why?
Being Cuban and black is no different from being fully black or fully Cuban. Both races endured their fair share of discrimination and deprivation. The history of hardship and affliction from both groups are parallel. Slavery cast upon the black community was similar to the Afro-Cuban slavery in Cuba. Just as the statistics in this nation tend to lean toward more poverty-stricken lives, the Afro-Cubans also experienced the lower treads of Cuban society. No other culture can understand the prevalent racial discrimination that stained Cuban history in the late1950s.
Being Cuban is no more or less than being black. Both of my parents embrace their cultures and share it with each other. This is something all Americans may practice in the near future.
I’m no Elian Gonzalez, but I do greatly appreciate my Cuban and African descent.
Thanks, Mama and Daddy.
Stephanie Gomez is a senior public relations student from Jacksonville. She is the Opinions Editor for The Famuan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org