Here is where I'll put pieces I've written so I don't have to search my email Sent folder in the future. 

CubaOne Application Essay 

Like most Miami natives, my mother is Cuban. She left in exile in 1960 under the impression that her brothers and my grandmother were going on a vacation. The reality was my grandfather was in jail as a political prisoner and they were taking a one-way trip to Miami, never to return to the tropical paradise they were once fortunate enough to call home. With two dresses and her favorite doll packed in her suitcase my mother looked on as my grandmother was stripped of her valuables by the “compassionate” communist regime. Petra, whom most would categorize as a “nanny” but who I would grow to see as my second grandmother had sown a secret pouch in the bottom of her Pan-Am bag and packed it with grandmother’s good jewelry without her knowledge. She then filled the top of the bag with chocolates and told my mother only about the chocolates because she knew that my mother would not let anyone touch the bag carrying her favorite treats; everything they say about the fruit not falling far from the tree is true.  The jewelry was later pawned in Miami to make ends meet and Petra lived with us in Key Biscayne until she passed away in 2004. As a first-generation American, I consider myself, and those with a similar story, as “the children of the exiles” because we are. Being born and raised in Miami I was fortunate enough to grow up in a city heavily influenced by the Cuban culture, similar to the way a gardenia perfumes a summer night. Like mangroves, our roots are in Cuba, providing a strong foundation, able to withstand hurricanes, negativity, and doubt, and our branches, above water, stretch to Miami while reaching towards the sun and the promise of the American dream. I know my grandmother would never return to Cuba because she’s told me and I understand completely - it’s not the same Cuba she knew. The buildings may look intact but the internal structure is suffering, suffocating from the poor execution of socialism that we know to be communism. I know that because of my Cuban upbringing I focus on the positives in life; laughing when I could be crying, being grateful for every moment and treating friends like family because they are. I am so proud to be a first-generation Cuban-American and share my story and energy with those who want to listen and interact with my experience.  

CubaOne Application Essay Part Two

My family left Cuba in exile and arrived in Miami at the beginning of 1960. My grandfather and great-grandfather were being held as political prisoners in La Cabaña and arranged for my grandmother and three children, the youngest of which and only girl, my mother, to flee to Miami. My grandmother, one of the four Fernandez-Blanco girls, went from living in a home of her own with her family in Cuba to sharing a house with her three sisters and their families in Miami. Each sister lived in a room with her children until her family made enough money to move into their own home. Attempting to assimilate to American culture was no cup of Cuban coffee. My mother was made fun of because she took Elena Ruz, cream cheese and strawberry jelly sandwiches to school instead of the American classic, peanut butter and grape jelly. The kids at school were naturally mean to the immigrant students who were new and spoke a different language. Being called a “spic” was to be expected, but to experience hate from the parents of their classmates despite their efforts to always be polite and well behaved, the way my grandmother raised them to be, was a cut so deep my mother would never forget. Tensions continued to rise, reflecting the current social climate of segregation in the US in 1960 and one day, my mother’s oldest brother, Silvio de Cardenas III got into a fistfight with Billy O’Malley, a boy of Irish decent. The fight took place after school and since Silvio and Billy were the oldest of the children in the neighborhood, everyone came to watch and witness. After some brutal blows to their bodies and egos, the fight ended and Silvio and Billy became best friends, a relationship that continues to this day. Their friendship inspired other friendships, some of which grew into some successful marriages between nice Cuban girls and good Irish-American boys and vice versa. From hate and misunderstanding grew love and acceptance, adding some Cuban flavor to the melting pot and American dream, which I am forever grateful for and proud.