When Presidential Inaugural Poet, author and civil engineer Richard Blanco was growing up in Miami with his Cuban-exile family during the early 70’s, he longed to be a “true American” like one of the kids in “The Brady Bunch.”
He describes it as living between two imagined worlds:
One world was the 1950s and ’60s Cuba of my parents and grandparents — that paradise, that homeland so near and yet so foreign to where we might return any day, according to my parents. A homeland that I had never seen . . .
The other, less obvious world was America . . . Typical of a child, I contextualized America through food, commercials, G-rated versions of our history in textbooks and television shows, especially The Brady Bunch. More than a fiction or fantasy, I truly believed that, just north of the Miami-Dade County line, every house was like the Brady house, and every family was like them.
Much of Blanco’s poetry centers around his search for cultural identity. Over and over, he asks the questions, “Where is my home? Where am I from? Where do I belong?”
When he was a graduate student at Florida International University, he wrote the following poem, inspired by a childhood memory of wanting an “authentic” Thanksgiving meal.
Are you familiar with the gorgeous cut-paper creations of New York-based multi-media artist Elsa Mora?
Although she is a multi-disciplinary artist — photography, ceramics, jewelry design, painting, illustration, bookmaking — it was her stunning papercuts that first caught my eye about five or six years ago.
Originally from Holguín, Cuba, Elsa grew up poor, the fifth of eight children. Though she was exposed to many of life’s harsh realities at an early age, her MO for survival has always been the ability to envision her own reality, using the resources at hand.
When she was 16, she learned her birthday was actually May 9 instead of May 8. Apparently her mother preferred the 8th because that year it was Mother’s Day. This discovery changed Elsa’s thinking — she decided she could be whoever she wanted to be.
Growing up poor taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, whether it’s a material problem or an emotional one.