New York City, NY — by Bianca de Ayala
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
Around 2.4 million Cuban immigrants have taken residence in the United States as of 2017. This diaspora consists of three generations, ranging from recent immigrants to third-generation immigrants whose grandparents immigrated. For some NYU students who are a part of the Cuban diaspora, expressing their heritage is complex.
A recent association between Cuban Americans and former President Donald Trump as a result of the 2020 election has caused many first-generation Cuban Americans, such as CAS sophomore Odette Rodriguez Garcés of Washington, D.C., to define a clear difference between Cubans and Cuban Americans. Some Cuban Americans simplify their identity to Cuban rather than Cuban American, holding on to the heritage of their families. This is different from being a Cuban national — someone born and raised in Cuba.
Although younger generations of Cuban Americans lean further left than their older peers and relatives, media coverage of Miami during the 2020 election portrayed Cuban Americans — and by extension Cubans — as a single bloc, a phenomenon that Jon Elliston of the North American Congress on Latin America described in 2007 as “the Myth of the Miami Monolith.”
Vouching for Cuba as a Cuban has been weaponized against Cubans themselves. Fidel Castro’s rhetoric regarding people who fled Cuba has been appropriated online, used against any Cuban in the diaspora — they’re traitors. Others simply dismiss the experiences of diasporic Cubans. LS junior Stella Caridad Salomone Sotolongo, a first-generation Cuban Italian who has lived in Havana since the age of 12, described such arguments with non-Cuban peers.
“I’ve seen lots of [NYU students] using Cubans as political tokens in the sense that they’re like ‘See, this is what communism does!,” she said. “And extreme leftist NYU kids say, ‘See! This is the effects of … the embargo, and American imperialism!’ You can’t debate it when you know that there’s people that have actually lived in it. I’ve had to argue and debate my own trauma and my own life to literally every single person I’ve met.”
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.