Letters to the Editor

Letters from the issue of April 27, 2000

The "Forgive Us for Being Cuban" Letter
I am writing to apologize for all the terrible things we Cubans have done to you while living in the United States. Please let me begin with my own humble plea for forgiveness.

Forgive me for being too Cuban, too Spanish, too European, and too white. I know how painful it must be for you to have Spanish-speaking Caucasians living on your soil.

I also beg you to forgive my Afro-Cuban brothers and sisters for being descendants of the Yoruba people of West Africa, one of the most highly cultured and sophisticated African ethnic groups. It is not their fault they are both intelligent and beautiful or that they overcame the horrors of slavery with courage and dignity. Nor there is any malice in their ability to live in harmony with their white compatriots. I ask you to forgive them for being thoroughly Cuban.

On a collective level, please forgive us for having a strong work ethic, for being educated, and for enjoying a certain level of economic prosperity. Forgive us for paying our taxes and for obeying your laws.

Above all forgive us for having served in your armed forces and for having suffered casualties in your Vietnam War out of all proportion to our numbers.

Forgive us for having transformed Miami from a sleepy Southern town into a thriving, world-class metropolis. Also forgive us for contributing billions of dollars to the American economy. Forgive us for having successfully run major American corporations such as the Coca-Cola Company. Forgive us for not being a burden on your social welfare system. Forgive us for being economically self-reliant.

Forgive us for helping the Nicaraguans and the Haitians in South Florida.

Forgive us for our contributions to both American popular and high culture. Forgive us for Desi Arnaz, Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Paquito d'Rivera, and the Buena Vista Social Club. I assure you we meant no offense or harm by providing you with so much entertainment and pleasure.

Forgive us for artists such as Ana Mendieta and Ernesto Pujol, as well as for all the intellectuals and professors we have given to your universities.

Forgive us for playing baseball, a game you invented, and for contributing great athletes to your major leagues.

Forgive us for adding to your culinary diversity. Forgive us for our black beans, roast pork, arroz con pollo, arroz con mariscos, fried plantains, broiled red snapper, shrimp enchilado, Cuban sandwiches, flan, pastelitos de guayaba, and a host of other dishes that lack the refined sophistication of your meat loaf. Forgive us also for brewing coffee that actually looks, tastes, and smells like coffee. And most of all, forgive us for cooking with garlic.

Uncle Sam, forgive us for actually practicing family values instead of simply talking about them. Forgive us for loving our extended families and our children and for treating our elderly with affection and respect.

Forgive us for enjoying life, for being both passionate and compassionate, and for sharing whatever we have with those who are less fortunate. Forgive us for humanity.

Please, Uncle Sam, I implore you to forgive us for participating in the political and civic life of your nation. Forgive us for becoming U.S. citizens. Forgive us for voting in your elections. Forgive us for having elected Cubans to all levels of government. And please, please forgive us for having alienated our Latin-American cousins by defending your interests in the region.

Forgive us for learning the lessons of Henry David Thoreau and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as for mastering that most American of all political acts, civil disobedience.

I now realize we Cubans are a terrible people and we have hurt you in unspeakable ways. But I assure you we will get out of this country as soon as we regain our homeland. Unfortunately it does not appear that this will happen any time soon. Therefore, if I may be so bold, could you please allow us to remain here just a little longer? I promise we will do our best to behave more like a stereotypical minority.

Oh, by the way, could you find it in your heart to forgive us for choosing freedom over fascism?

Jorge Benitez Sagol
Richmond, Virginia

Editor's note: This essay, and slightly different versions of it, has been widely circulated on the Internet and copied to countless people via e-mail.

 
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