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“The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance they find their own order – the continuous thread of revelation.” Eudora Welty
What happened to our family was a bringing together, a meshing, a melting of histories, cultures, and outlooks. Just like the direction, the vertical angles, and the speed affect the movement of a thrown ball, and any small variation may consequently cause it to land nowhere near its targeted destination, seemingly picayune or adventitious personal events and historical moments have altered my course significantly.
Randomly brought together at a movie ticket line, my Russian mother and Cuban father are poignant testaments to the power of a moment. A date, years of ocean-wide separation, a long-awaited marriage, and then my childhood of learning, of interaction, of exploration, and yet of isolation from the harsh reality, flew by wonderful and warm reminders of my homeland. My parents took the decisive step to leave Cuba for Mexico in 1992, and there we were, thrown into our migrant odyssey for several years. At first persecuted by the Cuban government, we were soon blessed to become the first Cubans ever granted political asylum in Mexico by the UN, and proceeded to reside in Mexico City for four splendid years, at the end of which, our insecurities and the country’s rampant corruption pushed us to immigrate once again. You see, history isn’t idyllic, it’s dramatic and, as reflected in the formation of our family, it both branches and interflows, in and out of itself.
Mexico City was the city of wonders for me; it still is. The familiarity of the people, the openness with which they embrace others, the historicity and awareness of the cultural bonds embedded in their souls left me both warm and awed. But then, we arrived at our final destination, the United States, to begin afresh: immigrants faced with both new outlooks and customs, and the task of adapting to a new life, a different reality! And so once again, inescapably, our struggle for identity, our search for priorities, our mediation between gratefulness to the nation that had welcomed us and the desire to remain loyal to our historical and cultural consciences, our individual and yet communal sense of “self,” continued.
In my family, it’s always been less about just following tradition and more about gaining an appreciation of our lives’ trajectory. I’ve been taught that people are exceptional creatures and that as such we are all different; these dissimilarities should be a source of pride. From each country we have enriched more than our palate; we have gathered the only wealth that can truly be defined as human an acceptance of the ineffable interdependence between hope, hardship, joy, pain, and survival and harbored it in our hearts as more than just memories.
And yet, as much as the sequential influence of one event upon another has molded me as it molds all others, the continuity of historicity, its direct influence, has also greatly guided my path. The circumstances I have studied in books are not precisely those that have brought about my formation, for it is understanding a moment more than reading in history texts that has fueled my awareness of the sequential nature of time and my role in it. For example, the Cuban Revolution that seated Fidel Castro as the nation’s dictator allowed my middle-class grandmother the freedom to divorce my grandfather and take a job teaching and gave my father the opportunity to study in Russia and receive his PhD in physics, expand and enrich his life; though the system did eventually confine him because of his refusal to follow its ideologies, the ripples it had begun in his life were not only irreversible, but also inherent to our family’s seity. Similarly, had my Russian grandparents not survived seven years in Siberia during and after WWII, I wouldn’t have sat this past summer with my 91-year-old grandfather and felt full of life, of real moments, tangible pasts, as he told stories about Nicholas II, Stalin, the world wars, the Cold War. Momentaneous changes, decisions made, choices taken in history these are the instances that, compiled, have led to my personal cultural identity.
The attunement several influences have struck within me through time has bestowed upon me the opportunity to passionately though slowly carve out aspects of the person I am today. The human condition may need quantitative and qualitative analysis, charts of joyful days, graphs of heartbreaks, and bell curves of daily complexity, but I believe that the true power of measurement is our daily and constant effort what we bring to life. At some point I came to understand two things: the thread of our life is in every sense continuous, and as much as history is an external process, its true essence lies within us, for we are its true carriers.
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