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April 6, 1994 will forever be burned into my memory.
That is the day my Cuban father, Russian mother, little brother and myself landed in Miami International Airport to seek a better life in America, to find our own version of the American Dream.
The thing I remember most, however, is sitting for hours (eight? Maybe 12?) in a bitterly cold detention room while airport officials tried to figure out what to do with us because, well, we hadn’t exactly come here legally.
Almost 23 years later and I am now happy to call myself a U.S. citizen and proud of the life that I and my family have built here. However, considering that our legal and undocumented immigrants are facing an unjust undermining and seizure of rights by the nation’s current leaders, I have decided to talk more about the immigrant experience and to start this publication, Moscow Chica: Half-Cuban, Half-Russian, All-American.
In case you hadn’t heard, yesterday was “A Day Without Immigrants.” It’s a nationwide protest in order to demonstrate not only the power of immigrants but also how important they are to the American workforce.
In fact, reports say that businesses all across the U.S. closed in honor of the day. I’m especially happy to see that one of my favorite chefs, José Andrés, closed his restaurants in protest of Donald Trump’s policies.
The night before I couldn’t sleep thinking about the day. It was organized all across social media and there doesn’t seem to be an organization behind it, which is kind of amazing. I hope that the success of day sets a nice precedent for the upcoming “A Day Without A Woman” strike on March 8th(which is International Women’s Day, for those that don’t know).
But to be honest, what really kept me up is thinking about how I could honor “A Day Without Immigrants” myself.
You see, I’m an immigrant.
Anyone that knows me probably isn’t really surprised by this fact. I talk frequently about being Latina, about my Russian and Cuban heritage, about my family coming here when I was just eight years old. It’s something that has even made its way into my writing on occasion.
I’ve written about being a bisexual Latina immigrant (and why it was important for me to vote), why I support the repeal of the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy, how my Latina shame kept me from going to therapy, the things that only Latina girls know about beauty, what I learned about Latinos after I moved out of Florida, the things that Cubans do that Americans might fight weird, signs that you grew up Cuban-American and, of course, what only a Russian-Latina could teach you.
My multicultural background is obviously something that is on my mind frequently. In fact, I am currently writing a memoir about this topic. It’s titled Moscow Chica: How Growing Up Russian and Cuban Made Me an American, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
But when it comes to “A Day Without Immigrants,” I struggled with how I could best show my support. Obviously, I am an immigrant myself — though I have been a U.S. citizen since just before 9/11. That doesn’t make me any less of an immigrant, but I fear that my own boycotting would not have had as big of an impact as the hard labor force of immigrants (you know, people who work in the back of restaurants or picking fruit at our farms).
To be honest, I have a pretty cushy job. I am a part-time freelance food editor at Brit+Co, which I absolutely LOVE, and I freelance write on the side. I work from home these days, too, which is pretty cool. It gives me a certain amount of freedom.
Yet when it comes to what kind of impact I could make by, say, not working yesterday… Well, that’s where it gets tricky.
The truth is that, because I am a freelancer, my days are pretty much however I structure them. Yes, I am signed on for certain amounts of time at my various regular contributor roles but, in general, I don’t think that too many people would have suffered if I had called in sick or “called in protest”. I just don’t think I would have the same impact as the average undocumented immigrant.
So, instead, I’ve decided that what is right for me is something else. A different kind of protest, let’s say.
One of the main reasons that I became a writer is because I wished to inspire people with my stories and to give a voice to the stories that I believe need to be told. This, of course, includes the immigrant story.
The reason that I decided to finally get to it and write my memoir is precisely because of what is happening in our country today. It’s no understatement to say that immigrants are under attack during the Trump presidency, since building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico was legitimately one of his first campaign promises. And with the attempted Muslim travel ban happening just days into his presidency, things are worse than ever.
I’m terrified of what will happen to people like me, even though I am a U.S. citizen and should, in theory, be pretty safe. But my passport still says that I was born in Russia and my last name is still Gonzalez.
So while our president (whose name I can barely say still) is primarily targeting Muslims and Mexicans, how long before it’s the rest of us?
That’s why I have decided to start this publication on Medium, Moscow Chica: Half-Cuban, Half-Russian, All-American.
The thing I think that I can actually add to the conversation surrounding our current world and political climate is my voice.
Maybe that sounds a bit pretentious of me, but I’m a writer. Writing is the thing I do, writing is the thing I know, and writing is the thing I believe in. I’m a journalist by trade, too, so the president’s attack on the media have also been particularly alarming to me.
So today: This is what I am doing.
I am writing, I am sharing my story, and I am making a commitment to continue to share my story as an immigrant and the stories of others.
My memoir is going to talk about what it’s like to grow up in America as a multicultural child, but this blog is going to talk about what happens afterwards. Here I will discuss things that come up for me on a daily basis… That will of course include politics and WTF is going on in the world right now, but it will also be about many other things.
Sometimes I’ll want to talk about my fears of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and traveling abroad, and other times I may talk about the weird thing I realized about my roots while buying a car. The truth is that being Russian-Cuban-American impacts pretty much everything in my life in little and big ways. And I want to talk about all of that.
I also want somewhere to share thoughts and interesting articles I’ve read recently about immigration, multiculturalism and being an American. So here it is!
I hope you will join me on my journey as I share my world through a multicultural lens. Even if you can’t relate to my particular blend of cultures, I know that there will be something here for everyone.
After all, aren’t we all just trying to follow the American Dream in the end?
(Image via Nitish Meena/Unsplash)