Noticias tristes: Mi tía Alicia murió anoche. Ella era una mujer cubana con mucho pasión. La vamos a extrañar mucho.
As most of you know, I’m a first-generation Cuban-American on my dad’s side, yet for myriad reasons my parents didn’t raise me bilingual. It’s the biggest regret of my life; mi Español es mierda.
But when I was around Tita Ali, just as when I’m around my grandparents, it’s straight up Flowers for Algernon with me and my Spanish. She instilled confidence in me, a confidence that I don’t always feel around other people. Outside of the elders in my family, I don’t really have much cultural connection to my heritage. I’m afraid of what it’ll mean when they’re all gone. Part of being a model minority is assimilation, but I can’t help but feel something vibrant is slowly being extinguished each and every day I move further from where I came from.
Tita Ali died in her sleep last night. She was a fiery, powerful woman who didn’t take no shit from no one. She was the family wit, armed to the teeth with a quick and biting sense of humor. She loved Coca-Cola and Cuban coffee. She was the pickiest eater you’d ever meet. Meghan, my dad, and I got to go on vacation with her earlier this year and she was always so full of life. It’s shocking to think that she’s just… gone.
Since she had no inhibitions about cracking jokes, I feel comfortable making mention that it’s a funny coincidence the U.S. and Cuba re-opened full diplomatic relations in the hours prior to her passing. I suppose if you told her that we were going to bury the hatchet with Fidel, she would have said something like, “¡Coño! Over my dead body.”
We’re gonna miss you, Tita Ali. Thanks for everything.