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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Richard Blanco, Cuban-American poet who addresses problems of identity of immigrants in America

Richard Blanco jokes that he is “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported into the United States,” a fusion of identities that, in turn, reflects the cultural diversity that exists in the United States.

In 1968, his mother left Cuba seven months pregnant for Madrid, Spain, where she gave birth to Blanco. But far from settling down in the “homeland”, 45 days after his birth, he and his family moved to Miami, Florida to start a new life in search of new opportunities in the United States.

relations with cuba

Despite never having lived in Cuba, he admits that he feels great connection to the country and credits this to the influence of his parents, who from a very young age explained to him what life was like on the Caribbean island . His mother was a bank teller and his father a book dealer.

So all his memories of Cuba from childhood and youth were learned through the stories his loved ones told him and those he read in books. “My memories of Cuba are stories, photographs, letters that talk about family in Cuba, but I know these are my parents’ memories,” Blanco explained during an interview. voice of america,

It was not until 1994, when he was 26, that he set foot in Cuba for the first time. This allowed him to learn more about the Caribbean island and strengthen cultural ties with the aim of being able to write poems about the country with which he so much identifies. “I always say that poetry is what took me to Cuba, my parents’ Cuba, and that’s why I try to go every five or six years, because it’s such a beautiful and interesting experience. , and because it is a great inspiration to me”, comments the poet.

“Being able to see the little house where my grandmother lived, walk the same streets my father walked or see the sugar mill where my grandfather worked, which is definitely not the Cuba he saw in 1967.” had left,” gave them the opportunity to learn in first person what their lives were like and also understand some of the traditions they maintained over time.

“I fell in love with Cuba and wanted to know everything about the country. And I have tried to maintain a relationship with the island, however difficult it is,” he explained, pointing to the difficulties the country has faced in recent years due to the severe political, social and economic crisis.

chosen by obama

Despite being common in literary circles, his name was practically unknown among the general public. But everything changed in 2013, when the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, invited her to the inauguration ceremony of his second term to recite a collection of poems “City of a Hundred Fires”.

“The truth is I don’t know how the invitation came to me because I never asked the president, but I like to think of my romantic version: that his wife (Michelle Obama) was at home, his library, reading my poems and he fell in love with my poems”, Blanco says with a laugh.

What she is sure of is that former President Obama personally chose her because she was an example of the cultural diversity that exists in the United States. This was reflected in some way or the other in his literary works, but also against the background of the identity problems that many immigrants in this country face. “Find those, the questions you ask yourself: ‘Am I American or not?’ And I think that kind of conversation brought us together,” says the poet, who was named Richard after former President Richard M. Nixon, who was her father’s favorite because of his stand against Fidel Castro. Were.

Migrants’ identity problem

Initially, “I thought it was to be an American I saw on TV, in food commercials, like the turkey we never ate on Thanksgiving,” he said, but his identity struggle had already unfolded. He began in poetry and wanted to address cultural aspects of the countries with which he identified.

At the time she was to write for President Obama, she was 44 years old and still asking herself the question: “Do I really love this country or does this country love me?”

But he admitted that it wasn’t until he took charge of the White House that he realized all the ties that united him to this country. “When the White House asked me to write poetry, I finally felt like an American. I mean, I realized that this story, written by the son of an immigrant and a homosexual, is part of it. We all are part of it,” he says, as he recites poetry during the inauguration. “Thousands and thousands of people, many Latinos, wrote to me, saying that they finally felt like they, too, were a part of this country.”

And thus, thanks to poetry, he was able to send a strong message to immigrants who, like him, shared cultural ties with America, the country that welcomed them, but also with their countries of origin, with which many People continue to maintain relationships and traditions.

The artist states, “When I started writing poetry, I always wanted it to be something other than reaching the masses and I think what I did was make a difference, at least among Latino immigrants.”

Her Mission: Bringing Poetry to Schools

For now, Blanco assures that his focus is on education and teaching poetry in schools. “I’m very interested in education and how they teach poetry in schools,” he remarked, recalling that he “could never understand poetry because they never taught it to me”.

Blanco was named an ambassador of the Academy of American Poets in 2015 with a mission to work with teachers and students to find new formulas for teaching poetry in the country’s schools. “It’s not always like this, in which young people read a poem and then ask them what it means. I want them to understand the poem, of course, but I want them to feel inspired, not to be intimidated by No.”

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