Next Year in Cuba: A Cubano's Coming-of-Age in America

Next Year in Cuba: A Cubano's Coming-of-Age in America

Next Year in Cuba: A Cubano's Coming-of-Age in America

Next Year in Cuba: A Cubano's Coming-of-Age in America


Gustavo Perez Firmat arrived in America with his family at the age of eleven. Victims of Castro's revolution, the Perez family put their life on hold, waiting for Castro's fall. Each Christmas, along with other Cuban families in the neighborhood, they celebrated with the cry, "Next year in Cuba." Growing up in the Dade County school system and graduating from college in Florida, Perez Firmat was insulated from America by the nurturing sights and sounds of Little Havana. It wasn't until he left home to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan that he realized that as the Cuba of his birth receded farther into the past, he had become no longer wholly cubano but increasingly a man of two heritages and two countries. In a searing memoir of a family torn apart by exile, Perez Firmat chronicles the painful search for roots that has come to dominate his adult life. With one brother beset by personal problems and another embracing the very revolution that drove their family out of Cuba, Perez Firmat realized that the words "Next Year in Cuba," had, for him, taken on a hollow ring. Now, married to an American woman and father to two children who are Cuban in name only, Perez Firmat has finally come to acknowledge his need to celebrate his love of Cuba, while embracing the America he has come to love.


Places. Strange and common places. Places you visit and places that you can’t go. Distant places and places close to home. Mine is a life in places, and a life out of place.

I’m Cuban-American, a member of what has been called the “one-and-a-half” generation, that is, Cubans who were born on the island and came to the United States as children or adolescents. I arrived in this country thirty-four years ago, when I was eleven years old, after the triumph of the Castro Revolution. As a one-and-ahalfer, I’m too old to be entirely American, but too young to be anything else—a condition that I share with many other Hispanic Americans as well as with immigrants from other cultures and lands. Born in Cuba but made in the U.S.A., I can no longer imagine living outside American culture and the English language. and yet Cuba remains my true home, the place that decisively shaped my character and my values. My life is a delicate balancing act between two countries, two cultures, two languages. Ask me where I really belong, in Cuba or in America, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you, because I belong in both.

To give you a clearer picture of this duality, let me go back a few years and describe two very different places, each of which contains a part of me.

In the first place, Miami. It’s July 1991 and Cuban exiles are in a frenzy. the collapse of the Soviet Union has made us hope for the long-awaited demise of Cuba’s communist regime. Travel agencies . . .

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