Hispanic Heritage: The Pledge of Allegiance & a pledge to create good – Austin American-Statesman

I learned the Pledge of Allegiance before I spoke English.
My grandmother, a saint, my rock and my shield, somehow heard that in elementary school, I would need to recite the Pledge.
Through her broken English, Fe (faith in Spanish) taught me the Pledge, even how to place my right hand over my heart. And thus began my journey, and my earliest memories that I was somehow different – I couldn’t pinpoint how or why – but that I would live my life in two fluid worlds, fused by my ability to go from Spanish to English. 
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, for me, it is a year-round way of life, because it is my heritage. I’m the child and the grandson of Cubans. I was last one to be born on the island. I am forever grateful to them because their sacrifice allowed me to live and experience the American Dream.
Hispanic Heritage Month:Here’s how we’re celebrating at the Statesman
With each passing year, I recognize how traumatic their decision to leave Cuba was for my family. There was no “we can outlive communism,” certainly not after strongman Fidel Castro began executing opponents and confiscating property.
My grandparents, all in their 50s, were settled into their lives, enjoying the fruits of hard work. They lost their homes, businesses, cars, bank accounts. They left families and pets and friends. 
Starting over was not easy for them, to learn a new language, navigate a new country, but they found a way. My mother, Eulalia, now 86, knew little English when she arrived in Florida. She went from selling cigarettes in a convenience store, to working as a lab technician and years later passed her medical boards to become an adolescent psychiatrist.
And they did it for me. 
My generation felt an extraordinary amount of pressure from a young age to figure things out. I dealt with the landlord, booked medical appointments, read the utility bills and translated health reports. But those hardships helped us succeed. My childhood friends launched countless businesses, became doctors, attorneys, journalists, law enforcement officers and judges. They built homes and schools and raised families.
In the last few weeks you have read very personal and poignant essays from our Latino journalists, who describe moments in time and family members who touched their lives and helped shape their identity. Their life experience is what makes the Austin American-Statesman a unique and wonderful place to work. We are from Costa Rica, Cuba, all over Texas, and with roots that stretch into Mexico and beyond.
We celebrate our heritage with stories that showcase faith, family and food, which are central to our lives and help define us. We are more than 33% of Austin’s population and thrilled, not just to be growing, but to be a responsible partner in helping to build our great city, a magical place to live, work and play.
This celebration is also a reminder for me of how fragile democracy is, and how it is under attack: there are attempts to make it harder to vote, outright pushes to ban books, disinformation, repudiation, demagoguery and demonizing of individuals, all under the guise of public safety or to get in line – this is no different than the authoritarian governments that I have covered in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua.
We must be vigilant. Those who want power are never satisfied. Our vote is a check on that power.
So I close by citing my Dad, also a Manny. He died young, age 59, of lung cancer. There is rarely a day that I don’t ask my Dad what would you do? He was a developer and entrepreneur, who took great pride in creating jobs, opening doors for others and helped launched a non-profit to help newly arrived Cuban rafters in Key West. Dad had zero tolerance for meanness, sham and abuses of power. He always said: Stand up for yourself. Stand up for others. Create good. 


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