I come to you with an open heart knowing that what binds us is being Cuban and American. Having those two things in common we also have many differences. It is 2008, our families and ourselves have been immigrating to this country for decades now. We have come before the Cuban Revolution with a family history in the tobacco industry, right at the start of the Cuban Revolution leaving everything behind, on Peter Pan, for economic reasons, for political reasons, en el Mariel, on balsas, on planes and crossing borders illegally. Some of us haven’t even been to Cuba. Our status in the United States also varies from economics, education, gender identity, politics, race, sexuality and spiritual beliefs. We all don’t fit into one category. We are just as diverse as humanity. We all may not agree and we are not afraid to show it but when the end of the day comes we must accept and celebrate our differences.
I come to you with an open heart to ask you to vote for Barack Obama in this coming presidential election. Change needs to happen in this country and Barack Obama can help facilitate that change. He can not do it alone and he doesn’t want to. He wants us to be part of the political process. I have always lived on the hyphen not knowing which identity to dangle on: Cuban or American. I am thirty-two now and have resolved many of my identity issues. I know that I am a unique mixture of both. Not every Cuban-American is the same. The United States is my home and it is here that I must work to bring about change. I write this letter with an open heart because I believe that you can also be part of the change this country needs by supporting Barack Obama.
There are many reasons why I believe that Barack Obama should be president of the United States. I will highlight a few.
1-He’s a good person. Maybe you are surprised that being a good person is on the top of my list for who should be president of the United States. Eight years of George W Bush has led many residents and citizens of the United States to mistrust our government. Barack Obama comes from a hard working family like many of us do. He has struggled to get a good education and uses his knowledge and experience to help others. He is an excellent father and husband. He labors for his community. He believes in the unity of the American people.
2-He is invested in the education of young people. Not all of us have the opportunity to a good education. There are children in this country that are learning in overcrowded classrooms with underpaid teachers who don’t understand them. There are young people who drop out of high school and end up on the streets, a low end job or in jail. There are young people that still don’t know how to read. My parents struggled financially but they managed to send me to Catholic school. Not that it was the best education but it kept me in school and I am thankful for that. There are children whose only option is the public education school system that is failing them.
Barack Obama plans to expand the early childhood education by supporting parents, expand Head Start and provide high quality childcare to working families. He plans to reform the failing No Child Left Behind Act, make math and science a priority, he will fund schools to implement better programs and education to lessen the high school drop out crisis.
“Obama will Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.”
I have $100,000 worth of college loans to pay. That’s a done deal I have to pay it. I don’t want another person to struggle to get an education in this country. I want our people to have the opportunity to finish high school, get a college education, get a masters degree, get a PhD, become a lawyer, a doctor, an architect. I want us all to have that opportunity and so does Barack Obama.
3-Barack Obama will bring the troops home. I don’t agree with the war in Iraq. It has killed many lives and destroyed families. It has affected people living In Iraq and people living in the United States. The war that should have never started must end. The only way to help Iraq is for the United States to leave. He will implement programs to help the 2 million Iraqi refugees and the other 2 million who are displaced in their own countries. By leaving he will give Iraqis the opportunity to heal and reconstruct their government and lives on their own terms.
4-Barack Obama will strengthen our civil rights. Too many of us are subjected to discrimination because of our skin color, our accents, our race and ethnicity.
“Obama will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. Obama will also pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
He will end racial profiling in federal law agencies and implement programs and incentives to state and local agencies to also end racial profiling.
5- Obama will make healthcare available to everyone. My father was a baker and he developed asthma because of his work. He always stressed the importance of healthcare because it was a necessity to him. I try to eat well, excercise, I don’t smoke or drink so I am pretty healthy. But I need new glasses, I had to pay out of pocket to fix my teeth. I don’t have healthcare because I have chosen to eat instead of paying for health insurance. Not all of us have the opportunity to access good healthcare in the country. Barack Obama will make available a national healthcare plan that serves all Americans. He will also make it mandatory for children to be insured and young people up to 25 years old to stay on their parents’ insurance.
6-Barack Obama will change policies towards Cuba. Now this is where I might hit your soft spot but remember I come to you with an open heart. We have all been affected by the embargo on Cuba. All Cubans, on and off the island. It has been over 40 years that the United States has not had a relationship with Cuba. This hasn’t been the best tactic. My parents came here in the 70s. The Cuban government did not want them to go back. They said if you leave it will be forever. My parents took that risk because they didn’t want my brother to go without milk. My father wanted to aventurar. My mother couldn’t take to stand in one more cola and worry that she will get arrested for buying meat en la calle.
When a group of Cuban-Americans had secret talks with Fidel Castro that led to him opening up the country to exiles my parents went back. So, did I for the first time. I was born in Brooklyn, New York but I didn’t learn English until I started kindergarten. I went to Cuba at ages three and five believing that I was just Cuban. There I was called la yanqui. I remember being five and mad at Fidel for not letting us go back sooner. It has always been a back and forth between both countries. Sometimes it’s Cuba sometimes it is the US. There are many of us that remember the 5 minute phone calls that we made to our families in Cuba through Canada that cost $40. We remember that we couldn’t send money. We remember the telegrams, the letters in international envelopes, the stories our parents told us about how they grew up in Cuba. I was filled with these stories growing up and I also had memories of my own. One of my brothers was raised in Cuba and I had my abuelas, tias, tios and primos to think about.
Cuba has always been in my heart, its sugar runs through my veins. I go back to Cuba as often as I can. My family buys clothes all year long to send to our family in Cuba when someone goes back. We send packages of medicine, letters filled with love. We can now write to each other over email. I call mi primo on his cell phone. I have dreams that I am at my Tia’s house for a long weekend. I want to see my family more frequently. I also want them to come here.
I write to you with an open heart to say that US policies on Cuba does not work. There has been no change just frustration. Opening relations with Cuba will not give the Cuban government more power it will just let them be. We may not agree with the Cuban government but its their government. We left and have to make our homes here. En Cuba people say, No es facil. Its true Cuba can be very difficult but the US government continue to impose sanctions that hurt the Cuban people doesn’t make their lives any easier.
I wish Barack Obama would have stuck with his first plan to lift the sanctions on Cuba. He changed his stance and that happens. We are allowed to change our minds. He does want to lift travel restrictions. We need the opportunity to go back to Cuba freely. Every American should be given that right. As Cuban-Americans we can no longer dream of a Cuba from before. The past will never come back. There is still beauty and life in Cuba. We need to experience that. Every time I am in Cuba I realize how American I am. Every time I am in Cuba I wish I could be closer. I wish I could feel the salt from the ocean on my skin, hear the Cuban sounds in heartbeats. I wish there wasn’t a barrier for me being Cuban.
Barack Obama also wants to have a dialogue with Raul Castro. Some of us do not want this to happen unless Cuba agrees to change. But how can change happen without a dialogue? How can we really force people to change? Change comes from within. It does not come from outside forces. Just think of the little things that weren’t working for you. Did you change them because someone ignored you, yelled at you, gave you an ultimatum? Or did you change because you knew for yourself it would be the best thing for you?
In the United States people are going hungry, children aren’t in school, people are left to choose crime over a low end job. Thousands of young people are choosing the military because they can’t afford college. Gas prices are so high I wish I didn’t have una madre que tenia dolor de los nervios that couldn’t teach me how to ride a bike. Change needs to happen in this country. Barack Obama as president will facilitate that change. You can be part of that change. We must invest in our lives and the lives of the future generations. Our families came to this country for opportunity. We came because we believed in the American dream. Sometimes it feels like a nightmare. I don’t want my reality to be a dream or a nightmare. I want to go to sleep at the end of the day and feel that my life is rich. Not economically but spiritually. Part of this richness is to serve and bringing change to the country will fulfill that.
Mi gente, I do write to you with a open heart and I ask for you to question, to research, to not believe the propaganda against Barack Obama and find out what is really going on. I ask you to go to Barack Obama’s website and read more on his issues: I ask that you support Barack Obama and tell others why they should too. Read his books go on YouTube and watch his speeches. I ask you to open your hearts as well. Please vote for Barack Obama.
I pray that you will always be filled with light, that your hearts are swollen with love, that your souls are lifted and your minds at ease.
con mucho amor cubano,
Maceo Cabrera Estevez
All quotes are taken from the Issues section of the Barack Obama website: http://www.barackobama.com