Sure enough, back in 2007, Babalu contributor Robert Molleda penned a post [cross-posted at 26th Parallel] about whether it was okay for Miami Cubans to consider themselves immigrants or exiles.
Exile, using a basic definition, is to be forced out of your land. Immigration, by definition, is to willingly leave one's country to settle permanently in another. Therefore, to be an immigrant is to renounce your native land in favor of a new and better place. Some associate renouncing your native land to renouncing everything associated with it, including past experiences of yourself and others. In that context, George made sense.So it appears as though Molleda defines being a "Cuban-American exile" more in terms of one's anti-Castro feelings, attachment to their heritage and their desire to eventually return to Cuba rather than when or how they arrived in the United States. For Molleda, it's totally possible for Cuban-Americans to use the term "immigrant," particularly those who wish to remain here in the United States, and still not be untrue to their Cuban roots.
However, for Cuban-Americans, it's a bit more complicated than the definitions above. Several polls, including recent ones, indicate that the vast majority of Cuban-Americans would not return to live in a free Cuba of the future. To me, that represents an evolution of the Cuban-American community from an exile state to one of acceptance and assimilation more commonly associated with the immigrant experience. After all, it's been almost 50 years. This is not to say that Cuban-Americans who don't want to go back to live in Cuba resent their heritage. Of course as anyone familiar with Babalu Blog knows, this can't be farther from the truth. This is where I diverge slightly from George and what caused me to pause while hearing the podcast. Yes, there are many self-described Cuban-American "immigrants" who disdain the hard-line and much of their Cuban heritage, as George correctly noted. But there are many more who want to keep their newer roots in the United States and wouldn't even dream of returning to live in a country that is vastly different than it was 50 years ago, whom nevertheless feel very strongly about a free Cuba, are vehemently anti-castro and are proud of their heritage.
In short and in summary, it's OK and perfectly normal to be a Cuban immigrant, still be proud of your Cuban heritage and identify with the values of your parents and grandparents. One does not have to consider him/herself an exile in order to feel this way.
Fellow Babalu contributor Geroge Moneo, however, was not one to agree with Molleda back then.
Being an exile implies a different feeling, a different mindset, a different set of premises, than that of an immigrant. An immigrant "arrives," an exile "flees;" an immigrant knowingly chooses to come to a new land because he has made a choice, an exile also does this, but he does it because he has no other choice; an immigrant desires a new life in a new land, the exile does the same knowing that that new life comes with the pain of forced separation, a pain that never leaves.Interestingly enough, by Moneo's rigid definition, Marco Rubio's parents are to be considered immigrants. They left before the revolution and clearly chose to come to America. In 1961, after Castro took power, his mother and siblings actually returned to Cuba and stayed for a month before leaving again.
If a Cuban chooses to call himself an immigrant, then to me he is denying with his words what was done to his country, he is denying the very reason for his exit, whether he admits it to himself or not. Because in the end, the Beast of Birán is the author of both experiences. A Cuban calling himself an "immigrant" denies to the world the crimes fidel has committed, the evil he has wrought on the island. It gives him an out in the eyes of the world. Our destiny, our lives, were formed by him. He is the author of our destierro. I just choose to accept the reality of what he did to us. I don't wear rose-colored glasses, and I am not, nor can I be, nor do I want to be, "objective" when speaking about what he has done.
I work with many who have left the island as recently as thirteen years ago who consider themselves exiles. Why? Because their desire for liberty was greater than their desire for work or economic stability. Not that they weren't thinking of brighter pastures here; quite the contrary. Many wanted a new life, to start a family, to have the ability to own property, to have a career -- a real one, not one paid by the government at $12 per month. But the prime mover of their decision was liberty: the ability to do, say, think, believe and live however they wanted. When all is said, where better to seek that liberty than here.
I offer this up as a impetus for additional consideration on an issue that has become a hot topic of discussion in some circles in South Florida.