New blog provides unique space for people to share their Cuba stories
Written by Nardy Bickel
ANN ARBOR– Airplane tickets their parents and grandparents used to leave their beloved Cuba after the revolution. Family photos taken before and after their exile from the island. Letters, artwork and postcards.
The collage created with items provided by anthropologist Ruth Behar and her longtime friend Richard Blanco represents the stories that have been missing in the discussion about the end of the U.S. embargo against Cuba: The type of stories that touch the soul.
“It seemed urgent that we say something, that we put our voices out there and create a space for stories, poems, things that go beyond politics,” said Behar, a University of Michigan professor who was born in Cuba but migrated as a child to the U.S. after the revolution.
Blanco, the inaugural poet to President Barack Obama, was born in Madrid to Cuban-exiled parents and grew up in Miami.
This week, Behar and Blanco launched the bilingual blog Bridges to/from Cuba: Lifting the Emotional Embargo for everyone in the Cuban diaspora, and Cuba itself, to share their stories through poetry, photo essays, personal narratives and interviews. They hope the result will be a collage of stories and experiences that provides a more real, genuine look at the Cuban experience.
“We’re hoping we’ll hear other types of stories, those emotional stories, those personal stories, stories of families divided for 30, 40, 50 years that might have reconnected recently. All those stories that are so deep and profound that touch the heart, that are more spiritual and soulful.
“Those are the kind of stories that we want to create a space for,” said Behar.
Friends for 20 years, Behar and Blanco have made their search for their identities a focal point of their writing careers. In the blog’s first posting, the authors blend two poems, one from each, in a dialog that bleeds yearning for the island and growing up there.
Blanco references Cuban espresso in his poem to Behar, The Island Within: “I’m tasting the cafecito/ you made, the slice of homemade flan/ floating in burnt sugar like the stories/ you told me you can’t finish writing,/ no matter how many times you travel/ through time back to Havana to steal/ every memory ever stolen from you.”
“Scattered everywhere are unread books, the stories I still haven’t finished writing,” Behar responds in The Island We Share. “Blame it on the fact I lost a country too young. I live with a suitcase by my bed. I am ready to leave at a moment’s notice. No place is home. Every place is home.”
The blog will be curated by the writers, who hope to have a variety of viewpoints and stories. They have already received several submissions, which can be made through the website.
The story in Spanish.
Requirements vary depending on the travel destination, sometimes even within a country, and depending on your status as a student or faculty/staff member. Steps include:
- Risk Level: Determine whether the city/s or location/s you will visit are in COVID-19 Low Risk, COVID-19 Medium Risk, COVID-19 High Risk, U-M Travel Warning, or a U-M Travel Restriction area.
- Eligibility: Determine your travel eligibility for your specific travel location/s.
- Requirements: Complete requirements as detailed in sections below. Students who have applied for a U-M program through M-Compass will complete their requirements within their M-Compass program application.