Some words about San Giving
Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco is a bridge between the generation of Cuban exiles for whom there is no poet but José Martí and their grandchildren grooving on Pitbull's rap.
Blanco, whose memoir The Prince of Los Coyuyos was recently released to critical and popular acclaim, has become the voice of a generation of Latinos who remember with exasperation and abiding affection the ways of parents to whom America meant something completely different than to their English-dominant and U.S.-raised offspring.
For the past week, on his Facebook page, Blanco has posted excerpts from the chapter "The first real San Giving Day" in The Prince of los Cocuyos:
"Over the years I had heard the stories they always told in low voices and with teary eyes, reliving the plane lifting above the streets, the palm trees, the rooftops of their homes and country they might never see again, flying to some part of the world they’d never seen before. One suitcase, packed mostly with photographs and keepsakes; no more than a few dollars in their pocket; and a whole lot of esperanza. That’s what the Pilgrims must have felt like, more or less, I imagined. They had left England in search of a new life too, full of hope and courage, a scary journey ahead of them. Maybe my family didn’t know anything about turkey or yams or pumpkin pie, but they were a lot more like the Pilgrims than I had realized."
Blanco's work speaks to more than just his generation of Cuban-Americans, of course. The magic of his words is that they speak equally to the U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents who this Thanksgiving think, with hope and gratitude, that perhaps Obama's executive action will mean the possibility of three years of Thanksgivings with no threat of deportation hanging over their family's heads.
I haven't read Blanco's The Prince of los Cocuyos yet, I'm looking forward to it. But his way of illuminating an experience that reaches across intra-Latino cultural divides was already familiar to me from his poetry. In his poem, América, he writes:
"There was always pork though,for every birthday and wedding,whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,even on Thanksgiving day—pork,fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—as well as cauldrons of black beans,fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito."
Naturally, even to a foodie like me, Thanksgiving is about more than just food. I'm wistfully calling up celebrations of Thanksgivings past this morning as I start the prep for our dinner tonight. It will be just the three of us this time around (one brother's family is in Rome, my other brother's family is celebrating in New York City, because as a news editor he's got to work whether it's a holiday or not) and because of the reduced number of us around the table it will feel incomplete.