Happy October! We wish everyone a restful weekend.
The Florida International University 2020 Cuba Poll was released today. The Cuba Poll has been tracking the opinions of South Florida’s Cuban American community since 1991. Read our U.S.-Cuba Relations section for highlights.
Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 624 active COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. Cuba’s total number of deaths since March has increased to 118 deaths. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.
This week we are continuing our interviews of next generation Cuban-Americans doing incredible work we admire. We had the pleasure of interviewing María Carla Chicuén, the founding Executive Director of CasaCuba, a new initiative of Florida International University in Miami, FL to build a leading think tank and cultural center for the study of Cuba and the celebration and preservation of the Cuban heritage.
Before this week’s news, an interview with María Carla Chicuen
CDA: Your family immigrated from Cuba to Miami in 2002. What was your and your family’s experience during your first few years in the U.S.?
María Carla: Our first few years in the United States were our family’s “startup” stage. These years were partly defined by constant changes and challenges. In my case, some of the most significant changes included transitioning not just from Havana to Palm Beach, and then Miami-Dade, but also from middle school to high school, through four different schools in a single year. One of my biggest challenges was to gain and prove fluency in English so that I could be granted permission by the school counselors to advance into more rigorous classes, and embrace all the educational opportunities available to me. My parents faced their own particular set of hardships. For many years, they struggled to find professional jobs and made extraordinary efforts to sustain our family while providing my younger sister and me all the resources they could for our personal and academic enrichment. Parallel to their work, and often, multiple part-time jobs, they were also focused on learning English and preparing to certify their respective university degrees, my mother as a medical doctor and my father as an electrical engineer. Like most startups, our finances were tight, and we lacked a strong support system. The burden of our separation from our family in Cuba also weighed heavily on our shoulders. Almost twenty years later, we look back to that period with fondness, because our teamwork gave us some of our most beautiful moments as a family; with gratitude, for the help we received from many relatives and friends, and the community at large; and with purpose, because we are committed to helping other families achieve their own dreams. As Cubans often say—“no es fácil” (it is not easy) but we always thought that even if it was not easy, it would be possible.
CDA: What has been your connection to Cuba since moving to Miami?
María Carla: With the years, my deep appreciation for my heritage, mi orgullo de ser cubana (my pride in being Cuban), has only intensified. I have always felt enormous pride in my culture, and curiosity for my roots. As a child, I became the family historian, learning the names and stories of ancestors and tracing my Spanish and Chinese lineage.
Beyond Miami, where the Cuban spirit has always felt ubiquitous, I found a very strong and special Cuban community at Harvard University where I completed my undergraduate studies and focused my honors thesis in History on Cuba’s diplomatic and commercial relations with Spain and England. Throughout my professional career in international development and higher education, I have maintained my longstanding commitment to Cuba. In my previous position as Special Projects Assistant to Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón, for example, I had the opportunity to coordinate an academic program to train Cuban entrepreneurs. I have also enjoyed mentoring Cuban students for many years, disseminating international education and scholarship opportunities that have enabled many Cubans, including those in Cuba, to access even some of the most selective universities in the world, like Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Columbia. These were remarkable foundational experiences for my current work leading CasaCuba at Florida International University (FIU).
My passion for Cuba far surpasses an accident of birth and blood. I am drawn to my little island’s outsized influence in the world through every century and set of coordinates, to the universality of Cuban culture, and to the immense potential of the Cuban people.
To continue reading the full interview with María Carla Chicuen, visit the “U.S.-Cuba Relations” section.
This week, in Cuba news…
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