Photo by Barbara Tyroler
My most painful memories come from my first year in the United States. As a fourth grader I hated school because I could not communicate in English, and I felt lost. The culture that I faced was strange and confusing, but with the help of caring teachers, I achieved English proficiency, and school became my favorite place, one that I never left.
If I were to write my autobiography, an apt title would be A Life At School, or, to borrow from a fellow Cuban-American, Life on the Hyphen. Living between the Hispanic and Anglo worlds, while presenting many challenges, has ultimately enriched my experience. Cuban ethnographer Fernando Ortiz uses the word, ajiaco, as a metaphor for Cuban culture. This savory, nourishing stew mixes ingredients from Europe, Africa and America. Through the years I’ve lived in the United States, South America and Europe I’ve added other wonderful ingredients to my native ajiaco.
Although as the well-known poem goes, I was born “where the palm tree grows,” today my unforeseen but fitting journey has brought me to the welcoming shade of the oaks at Elon. I treasure the privilege of belonging to this academic community with so many opportunities to serve and to grow.
Photo and accompanying personal statement were part of the faculty/staff portrait exhibit installed in Mooney Building in May 2010.