Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Making Wishes Come True

By Miraisy Rodriguez

Soon after attending the 2011 Raices Cuba Conference in Boston, the Miami Roots Board I volunteer with began planning “Bowl for a Cause,” because we heard of non-governmental afterschool youth programs on the island that were in need of our help.

Not too long ago I wrote that my wish for Cuban Youth this year was that they would learn something, anything. I wrote about wanting youth on the island to give me something to fight for. Feeling perhaps a little run down by the quick changes happening in the Middle East, as compared to the stagnation in the country I was born in, I wrote with a yearning for action from within the Island.

As life would have it, the universe heard my call; though granted, perhaps the universe interpreted my blog post a little differently than I would have intended.

I have three cousins, six, fourteen and seventeen, who recently arrived from Cuba. Talking to them about their education has been quite shocking. The oldest one tells me of a lack of teachers, of math classes being taught by students her own age who barely understand what they’re teaching. The youngest one is exemplary of a lack of student preparation in the formative years: where the average six year old in this country has started reading, can count to 100, and can spell her name, we have only just begun to teach my little cousin the alphabet (in Spanish and English).

When I heard that there were non-governmental centers in Cuba working on youth development after school and that there is a list of supplies they need, I turned to the Miami Roots Board with hope and enthusiasm, and they responded.

This coming Thursday we’re hosting a bowling event through which we hope to collect gift cards (from stores like Toys R’ Us and Office Max) that can be used to buy the supplies these afterschool care centers have asked for. I said in my earlier post that I wished Cuban youth would give me something to do for them, and now they have.

I will proudly go to “Bowl for a Cause” this Thursday with my little grain of sand (shaped like a gift card)!

Will you join me?

Miraisy Rodriguez was born in Santa Clara, but raised in Miami. She is a second year law student who likes to blog on her free time and volunteers with the Miami Roots’ Network. Her personal blog may be found at www.miraisy.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Un sueño entre dos patrias

By Romy Portuondo

To visit the original publication of this piece in El Nuevo Herald, see here.

En la mañana del pasado viernes 13 de mayo realicé el sueño de miles de jóvenes en todo el mundo. Yo, Romy Lissette Portuondo Remior, me hice graduada universitaria. Allí, sentada en el Bank United Center de la Universidad de Miami, no podía creer que después de veintidós años, al fin cumplía esta meta tan especial. Sin embargo, ni los decanos en sus vestiduras ceremoniales, ni la música, ni las palabras de la propia Donna Shalala, la presidenta de la universidad, podían opacar el brillo tan singular que irradiaba la pareja sentada en la primera fila de la sección 118: mis padres. Cámara en mano, allí estaban listos para ver a su niñita –una cubanita que llegó a Miami con cinco años– realizar su sueño.

En las semanas que precedieron a mi fecha de graduación, mis pensamientos –casi involuntariamente– se concentraban en los sacrificios y esfuerzos de mis padres que hicieron este momento posible.

Yo nací en 1989 en La Habana, Cuba. Como tantos que comparten mi historia, mi camino a Estados Unidos no fue fácil. Mi padre, un hombre brillante, se graduó de Yale en 1959 y regresó a Cuba para luchar por su patria. Con el paso del tiempo él mismo se dio cuenta de que el sueño que él tenía para su hija no era posible cumplirlo bajo las circunstancias en las cuales se encontraba nuestro país. Gracias a la insistencia de mi madre, él me otorgó el permiso para dejar a mi patria y venir a Miami. Aquí comienza mi vida como cubanoamericana. Esta ha sido una vida marcada por la dicotomía entre dos patrias; dos patrias que se han unido en mí para componer mi ser.

Desde mi llegada a Miami siempre he sentido un deber hacia mis dos patrias y hacia las personas que me han ayudado a encaminarme en mi vida. Por esta razón, el éxito no ha sido una aspiración, sino un compromiso.

No tengo con qué pagarle a mi padre: si no fuese por su permiso quizás jamás habría llegado a esta tierra llena de oportunidades. Por esto, cada triunfo académico, cada logro y marca de excelencia la dedico a su memoria.

No tengo con qué pagarle a la comunidad que me recibió como expatriada, que me acogió y me ha visto crecer. Por esto me he dedicado a ser una portavoz de la comunidad cubanoamericana en cada foro que me encuentre, siempre orgullosa de los logros, el idioma y la cultura de nuestro pueblo.

No tengo con qué pagarle a mis familiares y mentores, quienes me han guiado durante los años de mi juventud. Por esto, les brindo mi amor y cariño.

Y, por supuesto, nunca tendré con qué pagarles a mis padres por el amor y el sacrificio que han hecho por mí. Un padrastro que me acogió como su propia hija y una madre que abandonó todo por ofrecerme una vida mejor. A ustedes les debo todo y no tengo palabras para expresar cuánto los quiero.

Hoy domingo 15 de mayo, me siento no sólo graduada universitaria, sino una ciudadana del mundo, cargada con el deber de representar a mi comunidad y cultura en todo lo que haga. En las palabras de Martí: “Yo no sirvo más que al deber, y con éste seré siempre lo bastante poderoso”.

Estudiante cubanoamericana.

Read more: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2011/05/20/944993/romy-portuondo-un-sueno-entre.html#ixzz1NIIdFcqX

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Wish for Cuban Youth: Part 9

This post marks the ninth entry for the current Roots of Hope blog prompt: "My Wish for Cuban Youth."


By Karla Vergara

Commencement weekend at Cornell University begins next Friday. As I have spent the last couple of days reflecting on what has truly been an incredibly enlightening four years, I can’t help also invoking the memories built at the start of this journey. I came across Cornell when I was about fifteen and I still didn’t quite know what I wanted out of life. Coming from Puerto Rico to the U.S. for a three-week summer college program didn’t seem like a decisive step to take back then. Never did I imagine that that summer would shed light upon what became my dream.

I attended a private school in Puerto Rico, where most kids who graduate stay within the public university system on the island. And, while said system does offer quality education, I realized early on it wasn’t for me. Then I found Cornell. Or Cornell found me.

Needless to say, being accepted into Cornell University became the goal that defined me through high school. And on the evening of December 15th, 2006, with my best friend by my side, both drenched in sweaty schoolgirl uniforms, I stared blankly at a screen that whispered that my dream school had accepted me: “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we inform you that you have been accepted into Cornell University’s College of Arts & Sciences!” With one sentence, I had become an admitted student, projected to graduate in May 2011.

That seems like it only happened yesterday, and here I stand—4 years later. Four years of arduous reading, writing, thinking, crying, laughing, and all those things that are supposed to compose one’s enriching college experience.

There is only a week left until graduation. I constantly find myself looking at the countdown that is annually posted on Cornell’s website for the graduating seniors, wishing the countdown would move a little faster. I constantly tell my friends back home what an excruciatingly painful four years it was. I often repeat to myself, “I can’t wait to start my life!” And then I stop.

At least I had the opportunity to fight for what I want. At least I had a choice. At least I am graduating from the school of my dreams. At least I am now able to choose what I want for myself. How many young adults around the world, in Cuba, wouldn’t love a chance to reach for what I have? And why is it that they can only wish and dream without ever getting to experience the feeling of accomplishment I had when I looked at that computer screen that night? Today, I have a new dream, a new hope: giving my counterparts in Cuba the same opportunities of chasing after their dreams.

Dreaming is everything, and yet meaningless if the dream is out of reach. An education is priceless, but worthless if it does not inspire us to dream further. The fact that I was able to make my dream a reality translates into an undying sense of duty I feel towards those who, no matter how hard they fight or how loud they cry, are not heard.

Karla was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is currently a graduating senior at Cornell University, where she majored in Asian Studies and minored Latino Studies. She is currently in the process of moving to Miami and preparing for law school admissions and is extremely excited to continue to empower Cuban youth on the island.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Their Journey Home Without a Map

By Miguel Cruz

I have a nice routine going Monday evenings now a days. After attempting to break a sweat at the gym, a tuna sandwich sits on my coffee/dining room/work table with a No Reservations marathon on in the background. Fancy, huh?

Man I need to travel. I never studied abroad in college. The whole "too expensive to pay out of pocket, too rich to get a scholarship for it" thing. (Rich? Did I not just mention the tuna sandwich and multi-used $20 IKEA coffee table? Whatever.) Besides, I don’t want to travel abroad with a group of people from here. That’s a vacation. Too comforting. I want to Travel. That is, interact with people from a place on Earth I’ve never seen, learn how they live their lives, and bring back those memories with me to help guide my life moving forward.

With a couple of months of tuna rather than rib-eye – and a few more to go, at that – trip one is finally planned. Unfortunately, that’s a wonderful luxury some cannot even dream of, specifically those in Cuba.

I promise you there are 23-year olds in Cuba with the same “What the hell do I do with my life now?” question that I have. And I guarantee that they can only dream about answering that question through travel.

Cuban youth need this. They need an opportunity to get lost in a place they have never seen before. No assignments, just a couple hundred bucks, a spontaneous personality, and a notebook. That’s unfortunately the easy part.

The real problem is what do youth in Cuba have to come back to? Why should they even go back to Cuba if they leave? Friends and family aside, they lack the incentive to return home with their memories.

What they need is a clean slate to come back to. They need the opportunity to mold their memories and experiences abroad into their own lives, in their own country.

The Cuban government ultimately has a decision to make. If they do indeed break with what history estimates will happen, then it is our responsibility to make these youth’s dreams become reality, and their choice as to how to draw their own map moving forward.

Miguel Cruz moved to Dallas, TX from Cuba when he was two years old. After studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, he now resides in Ft. Worth, TX.