My grandparents fled Cuba in 1961 when Castro’s dictatorship took hold of their beloved island. Even as 80 year-olds, they recalled vividly how they walked away from their home completely intact: plates in cabinets, beds made, and family pictures hanging on the walls. They were strip-searched at the airport before boarding the plane that would take them to the United States, their new home.
Like my grandparents and parents, thousands of other Cubans came to Miami to rebuild their lives. They took odd jobs, worked hard, and helped one another. This is the Cuban-American community in which I grew up – incredibly passionate, often opinionated, and unbelievably kind hearted. Most people around me were staunchly Republican who perceived Ronald Reagan as a champion and who believed anything uttered by a Democrat had a strong whiff of socialism.
When I left my Miami bubble for college, I realized how much of an insular community it truly was. Not everyone had pastelitos for breakfast, listened to Celia Cruz, or was fixated on Fidel Castro’s every move. I was lucky enough to have classmates from all walks of life that opened my mind to different perspectives and experiences. Whether it was late night conversations with my Chinese-American and Orthodox Jewish roommates, or intense debate in the classroom, I was continually amazed by how much people had in common even though we were raised in totally different versions of America.
Much to the chagrin of my abuelos, as I moved through life, I found that my core social beliefs as a human naturally fell in line with the Democratic Party. I volunteered for the Kerry campaign while I was in law school in Chicago. As a land use and zoning attorney in Miami, my regular milieu was the local politics arena. Now, living in Northern California, the environment is a constant topic of discussion.
When I started learning about SAM, I instantly realized this was something new, something different. SAM’s principles resonated with me because they converge with three of the main tenets that guide my own life: integrity, efficiency, and pragmatism.
As I watch what has been unfolding in America, I feel as though these same tenets have been hastily discarded by so many politicians in order for them to advance their own personal agendas. The leadership from both parties has failed the American people in many ways, focusing on their own successes and networks instead of America as a whole.
What’s worse, the sharp schism in which our nation finds itself has led the language of political discourse to degenerate into polarized barbs in a reality TV setting. Family and friends that once shared photos and jokes over social media are engaged in endless angry diatribes that have no resolution. We are better than this.
Simply put, I don’t want to cringe anymore every time I turn on the television or read the newspaper or open my laptop.
I know many of us feel the same way based on the offline conversations I have had, and we now have the opportunity and the platform to have our voices heard. We now have the tools to disrupt a deeply flawed political system that has tarnished the fabric of America – a country that in its short history was on the path of being diverse, inclusive, collaborative, and united.
Our founding fathers took the leap to create this beautiful country. My grandparents, and the ancestors of so many of us, took the leap to emigrate to this beacon of hope. It is time for our generation to take the leap and break from the status quo.
When my two children read about this chapter of American history in their school books and they ask me, “Mami, what were you doing during that time?”, I want to be proud of my answer. I want to tell them I did everything in my power to make the world better for them. I joined SAM and fought every step of the way to make a difference.
What will your story be?