When the time came for my family to leave Cuba, the new regime of government inspectors came to our home and took inventory of every item in it. The few items my parents held sacred became the property of the new Communist government and everything they owned, from pictures and mementos would never be passed on to other generations. Despite the persecution they experienced daily by those who had embraced the new mindset, their courage and determination allowed them to endure and stay focused while they waited for permission to leave. As my mother and father ventured out into the unknown to provide their five children an opportunity to live the America dream; my mother hid a picture of her wedding day and it serves as the only reminder of a past my siblings and I have only heard through stories.
They were willing to face the uncertainties of life in a country where they knew nothing of the language and little of the culture. Their focus was providing a new life for their children in a place where they could live in freedom and allow their children to grow up loving a country that had become their own. Once they left, they never thought, the impact of the revolution would stop them from seeing many family members again. My siblings and I know of these family members because of stories, but they are stories without imagines.
I was a year old when my family arrived from Cuba; my history and knowing where I came from has always been a passion. As I grew up, I was mesmerized reading history books and actually reading stories where images were included. Reading about Americans who gave their lives in World War I & II and other wars, in defense of the Nation’s integrity, honor and tranquility was always humbling to me. I remember the first time; I visited the Tomb of America’s Unknown Soldiers and the emotional symbolism it represented. There were no images or stories attached, “they were American Soldiers, known only to God.” No one knows who they were; no one knows their story; all that is known is that they sacrifice so much for the benefit of others.
The Espinosa family will always be grateful to the United States for providing us an opportunity to start a new life living in freedom. Although I was only one when my family arrived from Cuba; I am and always will be an American. I’m not a hyphenated American. This doesn’t negate my love for my roots, culture and all my family who still lives under an oppressed government.
There are families and friends from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the country who have been affected by a war of some kind. As you reflect on these impacts make sure you cherish the pictures and stories attached to them.
I want to thank my Uncle Benjamin Palacios and Alan’s grandfather Robert Ellison Wheeler, both World War II veterans for their willingness to serve. I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank my aunt Obdulia for marrying uncle Ben and to my Mom and Dad for unselfishly allowing me to live the adventure of a lifetime!