These grainy photos are from the Highland Park neighborhood of Miami, Florida in the late 1940s. Most of the people in these photos are no longer with us, but, as with the deceased half-siblings of my mother, they are in my heart. I hope to always honor their lives by giving my best efforts for others. The family pictured above is my wonderful dad’s loving and stable Cuban-Canarian-American birth family. (Because of sad circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the family was the product of a common law marriage, as I discuss in A Winding Path to Workers’ Gardens/Un camino de bobina a jardines de trabajadores.) They are standing outside the shotgun shack where my dad, the youngest of five kids, was born and lived through high school. The woman in the middle photo in the front on the right was mi abuela’s cognitively-disabled niece, whom she raised, in addition to her own children. Brought up on the working class left, my dad is the kid with the bubble gum on the right of the right photo–which is where he ended up politically, a choice he made, and I respect that.
After being raised on Richard Nixon, I have gone back to my family’s deeper roots on the left. My father and his oldest brother were lucky to catch on with the emerging Miami airline industry in the 1950s. Before that, mi abuelo was lucky to win $900 playing bolita, the illegal Cuban lottery in Miami, which allowed him to buy the shotgun shack he had been renting for years. I suppose that in a tragic sense, mi abuela’s niece, who was unable to take care of herself, was “lucky” too–she had a family to take care of her when her mother died an early death from alcoholism. I believe in the hope that you can see in these humble family photographs. I believe in the dedication and effort that led mi abuelo and my father to work hard to make a better life for their families. But, politically, I believe in more than hard work if you can find it. I do not think it is fair or rational to expect human beings, either the strong or the weak, to rely on luck–or leaving their families behind to escape from the slums, like my mom had to do over in Opa-locka, which broke her heart. I am a democratic socialist, on the left wing of the possible (while remaining active in the Democratic Party). That is the choice I have made.