It began when I was browsing through my parents' vintage photographs of a free Cuba in the 1940s and 50s at my home in Hialeah, Florida. I learned everything about Cuba from them, but I had never visited the beloved island only ninety miles from Key West, Florida. They told tales of romantic nights on the streets of Havana, an island where Cuban music escaped from small cafes and filled the streets with people dancing and laughing. I was learning the lingo recognized only by fellow Cubans.
Political strife upended the Cuba of my parents' childhood and ultimately prevented travel back to the island. It was a conflict so intense that thousands risked their lives to escape through shark-infested waters on man-made rafts to Miami, or anywhere for that matter, to reach land and claim political asylum.
Living this juxtaposition―love for the island and devastation at the collapse of a once beautiful society―was heart-wrenching. I felt as if I was being raised in a Cuban bubble while also being exposed to the elements of unfamiliar American traditions. A contradiction of sorts. For my entire life, I craved a better understanding of where I came from, the details of how my parents fled Cuba, and, most importantly, who I am.
I yearned to experience first-hand the Cuba of my parents' memories, to stroll the Malecon, and to immerse myself in the sights and sounds of that tropical paradise. After forty-six years of not knowing, I set out to learn the stories of the Iglesias family and to see the island through the tear-filled eyes of my parents. And finally, I accomplished that mission.