Exquisite spices of vibrant reds and yellows exploding on my tongue always sent a smile to my lips. The lavished aroma of papayas filled my lungs. It reminded me of home, the biggest island in the Caribbean Sea — Cuba. With palm trees scattered at its borders and the Spanish dialect roaming through the blue marble pillars of El Capitolio, Cuba has always been part of my identity.
Bouncy tempos of Cha-Chas and the scrapping rhythm of wood against wood could be heard across the streets of Parque Lennon. Kids of all ages giggled as their sandaled feet crisscrossed along the white football rolling beneath them. One boy with tousled brown hair ran to the right. Another one twice his size dodged to the left.
I observed them anonymously by the famous statue of John Lennon, grinning to myself with gratification. These kids I had never met in my 17 years, and who will never know my name, gave me fulfillment. There was no fear, no pain, no anguish. Their innocence radiated through Habana and there was never any violence between them.
As Cubans, we do not believe in suffering. Life was not served to us so we could shrivel up in woe. Our philosophy is to hold an unshakable balance between dread and joy. Nothing in our lives is effortless, however, it is not distressing either. That’s my culture.
Upon realizing this, my jaw began to quiver stubbornly as tears slowly cascaded down my flushed cheeks. My dad laid a soft, yet firm grip on my shoulder and questioned me, “Estás bien?” Am I okay?
“Sí, sí, es que estoy orgullosa a ser Cubana,” I proclaimed with a heartfelt smirk on my lips. Yes, I am proud to be Cuban.