As the daughter of Cuban parents, it has been rather difficult assimilating to the American way of life for life in Cuba is defined by working hard for low pay (if one is to find a job at all in the current economic state), not receiving the best opportunities with regards to work, education, housing, etc, and living in a government which is Communist and tells us what to do and when to do it.
Arriving in America meant that I would be afforded opportunities to improve my lifestyle in that every man is considered equal and is able to pursue the “American Dream” of having it all if he decides to work hard to obtain it! I came to America so that I could receive a better education, find a better job, and live in a community where I am free to hold onto my Cuban roots without fearing that I will be prosecuted for taking pride in my Cuban nationality. Therefore, I proudly identify myself as a Cuban American.
I may not understand all the traditions and customs of Americans but I do know that I am proud and thankful for the opportunities that America gives me and I am equally as proud and thankful for my parents and the Cuban traditions and customs they have instilled in me. The importance of understanding one’s identity with regards to one’s national identification is highly important because sometimes it is easy to forget from which you came. It is extremely important for me to remember the way my Cuban parents have raised me for those traditions have been passed down through generations of Cubans which has sustained our way of life.
It may not be easy living under Communist rule and I do not think any American can understand it unless they too have lived under similar rules and way of life, but my Cuban heritage and tradition is not simply defined by Castro’s rule but rather defined by the customs that have been part of Cuba since our very existence. Things such as the music, food, and religion cannot be taken away from me and I will hold true to those traditions as they are a part of me from which I do not want to separate. I came to America to be free and pursue opportunities that would enable me to have a better future not only for myself but for my future family.
If I forget who I am and where I come from then I will not clearly identify myself with any culture – American or Cuban. It is important for my self-esteem to understand who I am, what I value, and to be true to my convictions so that I can identify why I do what I do and why I believe what I believe. It is easy for us immigrants to lose our identity for we feel as though we should assimilate into American culture so we do not readily stand out among others and be identified as an immigrant yet we should not feel sorry that we have come from a different place.
America has opened her arms for years to immigrants and has given many people the freedom to carry on their traditions and customs while enjoying the traditions and customs of America. I am proud to be a Cuban-American who is currently enjoying the beginning of understanding the American way of life while at the same time holding true to the values and customs that pertain to Cuba. My ethnic heritage consists of Cuban ancestry which is basically made up of Spanish and African descendents.
When you mix the two heritages together you get something that is known as “Creole” and that is how I define my ethnic heritage. I feel this is important for it has defined the many traditions and customs of the Cuban people. For example, in our music we frequently use congo drums which derives from musical instruments that the African slaves used when they were brought to Cuba. Not only do we listen to Spanish music but we listen to jazz as well which also has roots in Africa.
Cuba has even come up with its own unique blend of Spanish music and jazz and we have called it timba-jazz. It is a fantastic fun way to dance and enjoy music! I have held true to many of the traditions with which my family raised me. I enjoy New Years Eve for which the custom is eating twelve grapes and saying a wish for each grape as you eat it at the stroke of midnight. I also hold true to making family extremely important as I constantly get together with family on the weekends.
It seems that in America teenagers go out on the weekends with just their friends, but in my Cuban culture, the teenagers hang out with family – grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins – on the weekends for that is the time to catch up on everyone’s life! Also, I enjoy the Cuban food which is not as hot and spicy as Mexican food but rather there is a lot of lime, tomato sauce, and marinades that we use to flavor our food. I hold true to my Catholic religion and still attend mass every Saturday night with my family.
Being with family is extremely important for they keep me grounded in that if I appear to be losing touch with my Cuban traditions, they will remind me how important it is to remain true to my upbringing while still living in America. I cannot do anything without my family knowing that I have done it and although that may be annoying at times, I know that my family will always be there for me and I am so thankful for my family! I performed a search on the origin of my last name “Castilla” and found out that it actually has a French origin but is commonly known for the Castile region of Spain (www.
surnamedb. com). Castile received its name due to the many castles in that region which I find interesting for maybe one day I will meet my prince and have my castle! I could not find any other interesting facts regarding my last name. I like my name and have never thought of changing it and now I know I can say for sure from where my name came! In conclusion, I am extremely comfortable in the skin that God has given me. I am proud to identify myself as a Cuban-American.
I may not totally understand America and all she has to offer, but I do know that I am so grateful to be here and for the freedom she provides. I am proud of my Cuban heritage and I believe I will always remain faithful to the customs and traditions in which I was raised. I plan to never forget from which I came nor do I plan to forget the country that as adopted me. I know who I am, where I came, and where I am going. References The Internet Surname Database. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from http://www. surnamedb. com/surname. aspx? name=Castilla