This is my first blog.

The picture above is one from my wedding day. A special day in a special place – Havana, Cuba – where my husband, Luis, is from and where we held our ceremony.

I spent a lot of time in Cuba back then, as we waited for almost 3 years for his U.S. visa to be approved. He wasn’t allowed to leave the country so I traveled there from every corner of the earth to be with him (as my family and friends most certainly took deep breaths with each repeat visit I took to the communist isle).  Baby Bush was in office and he didn’t make it easy for me to go, but I found my way.

Take it from Jay-Z – Cuba is fascinating, musically fantastic, lush, beautiful, confusing, frustrating and exhilarating. I literally shook every time I landed at José Martí airport.

On Luis’ turf, I was the freckly, blond Americana in a sea of Cubans, who are warm, inviting, nurturing, inspiring, raucously funny and fun, despite the challenges of daily life.

Once Luis got permission to move to my hometown, Savannah, Georgia, in 2004 it was then his turn to absorb shock in the form of culture, language, food, customs and by a few, prejudice. The difference being he had to adapt to live here. I was always visiting.

It was not easy – not even close – for either of us, but we worked through a lot, sometimes more gracefully than others.

Today we share a home and three children, two of whom we had together and another who moved here last year from Guatemala, where he lived with his mom for 9 years.  Raising kids who range from 1 to 15 is a complex adventure for any family; throw in the force of vastly different cultures and life can be, well, not dull.

We make the best of it, shooting for balance, as we try to celebrate the best of both of our upbringings. Cue good sense of humor here.

Ironically, I am still La Americanaat home in many ways, as that little island flavors our house invariably. We speak as much Spanish as English, the iPod blasts Latin music and most nights, its some form of bean for dinner – Luis has become a master – served with any variant of rice, tostones, yuca, malanga, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados and raw cabbage. For guests, it’s guayaba and cream cheese for dessert. And the coffee. Good lord, that coffee. There will be an entire blog dedicated to this later.

Our daily lives are interchangeably Latin and American, American and Latin. That’s what that photo of us is about. Two cultures coming together.

My blog will touch on our blended life, which is somewhat unique in Savannah, yet increasingly common across the country as more Spanish speakers move and merge into U.S. culture.

Think about it: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 52 million Hispanics here in 2011; that number is expected to grow to 132.8 million by 2050, making up 30 percent of the overall population.

No doubt, a slice will marry Americans, create their own mini Spanglo worlds. Within the converge, they may laugh, they may cry and on occasion, wonder how they ever crossed paths, the ability to see eye-to-eye too grand. For this Americana, a whole pig roasted in a metal box in our side yard and then set on the kitchen countertop, hooves up, sprouting hair awry with belly flesh open for all to dissect, sent my hair follicles into overdrive. Tipping point: found it in the oven the next morning, pre-dawn, pre-coffee, as it sat upside down, snout facing me, when I went to pop some waffles in.

Life is fun, life is full, life is good and always interesting as La Americana.

Please share your own stories, challenges or thoughts, especially you, the other Americanas, living in bilingual, bicultural households wherever you are in the world. English and Español both work!

A few quick culture picks:

Reason I went to Cuba: Buena Vista Social Club 

Cuban hip-hop group, Orishas, which is in constant replay in our house. Even our one-year-old, Ana, jams hard.

Trip heard round the world: love these pics of Jay-Z and Beyoncéon the island. 

Beautiful images and rounded view of Cuba in this 2012 BBC documentary.

Because I am asked all the time, legal ways for Americans to visit Cuba:

6 thoughts on “LA AMERICANA

  1. Melanie! Neal Here (Amy's dad.) I LOVE your blog. We are now co-bloggers! I hope all is well with you. Just finishing up summer term at SCAD (believe it or not.

    May your blog be PHENOMEONALLY successful!


  2. Enjoyed reading both, Mel, you're a talented writer. I think the extent of my online publishing is limited to “Savannah, what's your favorite 'Cue?”

    Look forward to your future submissions!

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