Havana Does Not Believe in Tears

Prize-winning author Roberto Uria landed in hot water in Cuba. Granted refugee status in the U.S., he must now sink or swim.

Uria stuck it out in Las Vegas for a little more than a month, then came to Miami in May of this year after his cousins sent him a one-way plane ticket. "This is the best place for a Cuban to come," he says, admiring the avocado tree in his cousins' back yard. "It's not exactly the best place to learn English, but it's the place where you feel the least like a foreigner."

Besides attending his English classes three mornings a week at MDCC's Wolfson Campus, Uria has spent much of his time in Miami looking for a job. He has applied for positions as a bag boy, as a vacuum cleaner salesman, and for a job at the airport A all with no luck. "I may have come on a plane, but people see me as a balsero," he says frowning. Then he goes on to relate a conversation he overheard between two Cuban-American women in which one said to the other, "Don't invite a balsero for dinner. They have old hunger. They eat everything."

Finally, just last week, Uria was offered a job as a clerk in a Miami insurance office. And for the first time he will receive some local recognition for his writing. He has been invited to read his work at the Miami Book Fair International, as part of the Ibero-American Authors Program. "Uria represents the young talent in Cuba that's unknown here and that has had no choice but to emigrate," notes Alejandro Rios, a member of the program's organizing committee. "His inspiration has been Cuban society. Now the drama begins of getting to know another country."

Uria gets up from the rocking chair and goes out into the house's yard. He points out the mango and grapefruit trees that shade the house, then starts to walk down the block. An ice cream truck drives by. Rap music blares from the window of a home with a weight bench in the yard, while salsa music pours from a passing car. He strides by four old men playing dominos on a patio, then continues on, passing a pharmacy, a bakery, the Hialeah Barber Shop, Rene's Unisex Beauty Salon, and a house that sports a cardboard sign advertising pork sandwiches and barbecued chickens for sale.

"It hasn't been great, but I don't regret having experienced all this," Uria muses. "I have a car. I go to class. I've been lucky. There are some great stories to be written in Hialeah.

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