Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: An Exciting Beginning

This post marks the first installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months!

An Exciting Beginning

By Ben Tyler

For the vast majority of my life, the last thing people thought when they saw me was “Cuban”. My name is Benjamin Tyler, I burnt easily in the sun, and as far as most were concerned I was as “American” as it got. Granted, I am half American. My father is what many would call a gringo; his family has been in the United States for several generations and in Miami for the past three. My mother is the daughter of Cuban exiles who came to the United States escaping an oppressive regime and looking for a better life. Yet, because of the unique nature of South Florida, being half American is enough to give you the label. It wasn’t until I left Miami for college that I truly became cognizant of my complete identity and began to identify with (and be identified by) my Cuban roots.

I decided to apply for the Raíces de Esperanza Fellowship because it affords me the opportunity to be a part of a cause that transcends borders, politics, and widely-accepted social frameworks, as well as the chance to learn more about myself and where I come from. Very rarely does one get an opportunity like the Raíces Fellowship and I am very grateful that I am on board. I first heard about Raíces through a friend who was involved in the organization and was lucky enough to attend the 2011 conference at Boston College. I was amazed not only by the elevated level of dialogue, but the caliber of the people. The strength of Raíces stems directly from those involved, its literal Roots of Hope.

Over the course of this summer I hope to gain a better understanding of the everyday life of my peers on the island; those who, in the grand scheme of things, are just like I am but have not been granted the same luxuries. My goal is to realize the ways that I can best serve them, think of the most effective way to achieve it, and use the Raíces network to carry it out. As I have begun to identify more with my Cuban heritage, I have also begun to understand the responsibility that I have to my brothers and sisters on the island. Raíces is the perfect forum to accomplish my goals and expand my horizons and I am excited to learn new things, meet new people, and have the chance to help empower a new generation.

One of the first things I was told when I started the fellowship was that Raíces doesn’t deal with “Cuban issues” but with “Human issues”; given my background and experiences, to me they are one and the same.

Ben Tyler is a rising sophomore in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Raíces de Esperanza 2011 Summer Fellow. To contact Ben, email

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