Finding Manana

I like many Americans have taken (probably one to many) history courses about topics from the history of the world, history of civilization(s), my county, my state, ect.  I have never before, though, heard anything (to my knowledge) of the Mariel boat lift that brought some 125,000 Cubans to the United States in 1980.  I did, however, know of many stories of Cubans coming over in rafts and small ships seeking asylum from Castro’s regime throughout my entire life.  I picked up a book from Goodwill a few weeks ago called Finding Manana, A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus. I have no idea why I bought this book, but I think it is because I read a lot of less than substantial books, and not being in school I feel like I need a certain amount of “smart books” to keep my mind working properly.  I finished this book today, and it is deeply moving and disturbing.  I could talk at length about it, but I would do it no justice.  I will say that it is not just the author, Mirta Ojito’s, story as she sees and experiences it, it is her story broken up with the stories of other Marielitas and key players that lead to the boat lift in 1980.  What really moved me about this book is the desperation of this people and the tugging that the author feels in relation to “abandoning” her country and developing issues with Castro’s politics.  When these people opted to leave their country they bludgeoned, screamed at, and oh so much more and worse by the people of Cuba that were brainwashed, essentially, by Castro who all but encouraged these acts against the “scum”.  Still in the face of great pressure (amongst other things) from their neighbors and their country, this people never gave up their dream and determination for a new and free life in the United States.  These 120,000 refugees, once here, faced incredible odds to change their circumstances to have a better life in our country.  Though some, like the author, never really felt at home here.  When she speaks of being an “exile” of Cuba, in the very last lines of the book, she says, “Exile, I learned then [upon my return to Cuba], is not a temporary condition that dissipates in the euphoria of the return.  Exile, like longing, is a way of life, much like a chronic, but not terminal, disease with capricious symptoms:  an avowed preference for a certain shade of blue — the color  of my old house, I realized once I stood in front of it again — and a formerly inexplicable, almost childish delight at the way the light filters through the fiery blossoms of some South Florida poinciana trees — just as it does in the trees that still shade my old neighborhood, even if I’ no longer there to see them.”

Ojito is an amazing writer, and the pain that she and 120,000 Cuban Americans share was shown to this ignorant girl today.  I am thankful for it.

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