Cuando Sali de Cuba - Henry's Story

Marta here: Today's entry in my continuing series of "coming to America" stories contributed by readers, Henry tells about his family, who are proud Americans with Cuban roots and his memories of growing up Cuban in Little Havana in the 70's.


by Henry J. Celorio


I was born in Miami, but my family was from Cuba. My mom and dad were part of the "Pedro Pan" exodus in the early 60's. My dad settled in Miami and my mom lived originally in Tampa before settling in Miami. My parents met while attending school at Miami Senior High.
I was born in 1971. I grew up being a American made with Cuban parts. I would visit my grandparents alot in my youth. Both sets lived in Little Havana. Little Havana back in the 70's  was what Cuba should have been in my opinion. I remember staying overnight with my parents and going to the "bodega" to get fresh Cuban bread, pastelitos and Cuban coffee. I remember the smell of the fresh food in the air and the friendship that all Cuban had when talking to each other.
My uncle showed his appreciation for this country as in 1969 he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He joined the army right out of high school. My uncle came back paralyzed from the waist AND never regretted the price he paid for the freedom America gave him. My father was drafted  for the Armed Forces in 1970 and showed up to his assignment. My dad didn't make the cut because of his high blood pressure but was ready to go if he had passed his physical.
My parents taught my sister and me to be proud to be American but to NEVER forget our Cuban roots and heritage. I feel very proud of the heritage I have with my family. My parents and grandparents struggled hard and succeeded here in America. My family has always been grateful to America for taking them in and for giving us the opportunity to succeed and for the freedom America gave them after it was lost in Cuba. My family has served in 2 foriegn wars and always followed the rules of this great nation. America is our home and we would die to defend her.
As for me, a first generation American of Cuban heritage, I hold my Cuban roots dear to my heart. I heard the stories of Cuba and Cuban life on the island from my parents and grandparents. Now its my turn to pass the stories and heritage on to my son. My son will be second generation American of Cuban heritage. I want him to be a proud to be a American and proud to be of Cuban heritage.
In honor of my departed Grandparents......I miss you all so very much to this day.
Henry J Celorio