Friday, July 25, 2008

50th Anniversary Thoughts!

J. Reyes-Montblanc
25 July 2008
50th Anniversary Thoughts

As a young lad, the land where I was born found itself embroiled in a civil war, things deteriorated and it turned into a bloody revolution the effects of which are still being felt in that unhappy island of the Antilles - Cuba.

Because my mother and father were exiles in the US, my sister and I lived with our grandmother and great aunt in a beautiful city then referred as the City of Gardens and today its name is quickly identified as a terrorist prison – Guantánamo.

As things deteriorated in Guantánamo City my mother was able to obtain a safe-conduct pass to pick up my sister and me and bring us to the US on July 25th 1958, six months before the triumph of the Castro Revolution. This means that today I have been in the US for 50 years.

On this 50th Anniversary, coincidental with my 43rd year as an American Citizen, I like to share with you, my fellow Americans what it has meant and means to me to be an American, a Teddy Roosevelt kind of American. I learned English and declared myself an American without any other allegiances, one with the many and the only hyphen is in my surname.

I proudly served our country in the US Marine Corps during our darkest moments in history. I enjoyed the Freedoms to Express myself and Pursuit my Happiness without any obstacles or limitations. I married an American girl and fathered an American son who in turn married an American girl and they provided me with two American grand-children.

I have seen our country change from the segregated South where I finish growing up with benefit of White Privilege, to a country that over all has legally but unfortunately not socially, eliminated Institutional Segregation but where self-segregation seems to be growing illness. I met the first American Negro, as Blacks were then called, while serving in the Marine Corps.

I have seen our country suffer the convulsions of the Civil Rights movement, and as a Marine, the Vietnam War and the Anti-War movement, I have enjoyed and participated in the Sexual Revolution and witnessed women's rights struggle and the “bra burnings” and seen the Gay, Lesbians, Bisexual etc coming out and taking their rightful place in our society. I have witnessed, and hopefully was a contributor to the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Evil Empire. And have been a member of Community Board 9 Manhattan for almost 15 years serving as Chairman 4 consecutive challenging terms between 2004 and 2007.

CB9M is a unique place with unique and diverse people, through the years I have witnessed disturbing behaviors, impolite and rude comments and outrageous conduct. But in the end after all the fuss and feathers we have ALWAYS looked after each other, suffered each others pains and quietly and many times anonymously helped each others cases or causes.

This Board, not for the faint hearted, assimilates those persons, who want to be part of our efforts, who have the patience and guts to get to know each other without judgment, without jumping to conclusions and have heart enough to ignore perceived small slights and to take no offense at truths presented in the raw or in rude way. I love each of our historic neighborhoods: Hamilton Heights where I live, Manhattanville where CB9M is located and Mornigside Heights and yes even Columbia; I am happy and proud of sharing CB9M membership with all of you.

I am proud to be an American, yet I've never lost my Cuban and Spanish fundamental spirit,
essence, and language, but have grown into an American without giving up on who I am. I believe Teddy Roosevelt meant it that way and would have approved.

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