OTW: UPDATED Bienvenidos a Miami Part 2

(6 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

now also up at Wild Wild Left

QUICK UPDATE: Friday noonish: Just an alert to let y’all know Tess made it by with a comment, see comments! πŸ™‚

Last week, I left you hanging with OTW: Bienvenidos a Miami Part 1. In that Essay, I told you a little bit about my growing up in Miami, Florida, alongside the initial wave of Cuban refugees in the early 1960’s. I also promised you I was going somewhere with this. Yes, I do have a Point. πŸ˜› I will make good on that promise near the end below. And finally, I left you with a cliffhanger with my mention of my Cuban friend, Maria {not her real name}. Well, guess what? I have a surprise for you!

Let’s pick up with a little snapshot phone convo between me and Maria, shortly after college.


She picks up on the third ring and I immediately lay into her. “Where the hell are you? It’s one o’clock already! Ive been ready for an hour! We’re gonna be late!!”

Maria is ever so casual. “Calmate, we have plenty of time. I’ll be there to pick you up around 2, like I told you. Man! Calm down.”

“But… the invitation says the wedding starts at 2, and it’s a 45 minute drive, at least, up to Hollywood. We are sooooo late. This is so bad.”  I’m whining and pleading now.

Maria assures me and tries to explain. “Bueno, she’s Cuban, remember? Are you kidding me? We would look so stupid if we actually had the nerve to arrive at 2PM. They’d lookit us like we’re crazy.”

“No, no, no, but Maria… he is Jewish! This is just so not done. You don’t get it.”

No, you don’t get it, the bride’s family is Jewban. The groom doesn’t count when it comes to a wedding anyway, ferchrissake. Hang up the phone and go fix your lipstick or something. Ill be there in a bit. Jewbans are on Cuban time, reglas cubanas. lolol

Okay, as culture clashes go,  this one is certainly tame and a little funny, but it did happen, and yes, we were terribly late by the wall clock, with me fretting all the way of course, but it all turned out just fine. Maria was right. lol We arrived just as the ceremony started, at about 4PM, which was just right by the culture clock.

Maria… it’s hard to pinpoint our first meeting… it was some 40 years ago and my older sister was friends with her older sister  first.  My earliest distinct memory is sitting on the couch at the home of Mrs. Shapiro who sponsored the weekly meetings for the Panel of American Youth, around year 1972.

“Panel”, as we called it, was officially a small group of high schoolers who would go present a Panel Program followed by Q&A session for various groups. The goal was multicultural understanding and harmony, before that was even a buzzphrase. I never did that public part, but I attended the informal planning, teaching sessions, conducted by Mrs. S, which was the real red meat of the deal, if you ask me. It was during these living room chats that we talked amongst ourselves, telling stories and sharing experiences. PAY was an offshoot of PAW, a program birthed in Arkansas in the aftermath of the 1957 school desegregation crisis in Little Rock (Pulaski County):

The organization’s members traveled around Arkansas to speak. The panels consisted of five or six women… Jewish, Catholic, AA, WASP, Asian-American… and a moderator. Each woman spoke about her experiences with the effects of prejudice, then the moderator opened the floor to questions from the audience. Each woman spoke about her experiences with the effects of prejudice, then the moderator opened the floor to questions from the audience. … The presentations helped lessen some audience members’s anxiety about school desegregation and the growing civil rights movement and began to address the effects of racial and religious prejudice.

Panel of American Women origins source

Somewhere along the way, someone had the brilliant idea to involve the students themselves in this process, and Panel of American Youth emerged. It morphed and continued long after the desegregation thing was not so much headline news.

An early encounter with Maria as I sat there comfortably on Mrs. Shapiro’s couch … I recall only pieces of this … included me expressing my prejudice about her as a Cuban, and using the example of her trendy hairstyle of the day (Im embarrassed to admit this, but it’s true!). That was my “proof” … lol …  that she was as typical a Cuban as anybody.  πŸ™

The “in” style then was a “shag” …. not that she styled it this way, but she did have that cut (as did 90% of all girls at the time!}.  Not only did I hate that style, but my wild Irish curlytop would never in a million years be coaxed (or ironed) into such a style anyway.

and then, there was little hippie me, with a hairstyle a little bit like this chick here —>. lol.

Needless to say, she skillfully dismantled that stereotyped charge of mine (after she quit laughing) with integrity and grace.

“Typical”? Uhhhh, no. Maria, I would soon discover, was anything but “typical”.

We became lifelong friends and she would never never fail to challenge my boxed in thinking or naiive attitudes as we matured and grew. She opened my mind, and my heart, to the core value that… sorry for the clichΓ© but… we are more alike than we are different, all of us. For that, I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Muchas gracias, mi amiga.

Not long after we met, Maria and I both migrated to another youth group whose focus was Peace and Pacifism.


Hosted by the AFSC, “The Peace Center” became our Friday Night Group. A somewhat different batch of kids than the Panel, but Maria and I both were here for the duration of those good ol’ days.  Lively, often heated, discussion and debate was gently moderated every Friday night by Scott, an amazing man. We covered all things political and social from VietNam to Watergate to Boycott Grapes. Scott encouraged us kids to read, learn, and discuss the many issues of the day, but always always, he kept our focus on pacificism. Thank you Scott, for being such a strong gentle man.

These things, these places, these people, were highly influential in my life. They helped to shape who I would become, and who I would remain, all these years. Now, in our current social-political environment, I have a renewed commitment which is, in part, built on that foundation.


I wonder, and worry, about my daughter, and her friends, her generation. What a world they are set to inherit…!

I wonder what can I do? What can you do?

My Point (finally!)

Well, if you happen to have school age kids, support any cool programming they might be getting in their school, if they even have something. Like perhaps this one: Teaching Tolerance. (Nudge nudge, Im preaching at myself here!) I confess my self -interest here, my kid turns 13 this Sunday. My intention, at this point, is to search out something worthwhile local and get her hooked up. As much as I love teh google, it’s not all that helpful on this. Weird shit results with a search for “youth” “peace” (etc), Im tellin ya!

Here’s a good green one, and an interesting a cross-cultural one. Here’s a global citizens one that looks really cool. And yet another global citizens one.

But, I recognize that this effort will really demand meat world action on my part. (Damn!) So I encourage you to push me, help me, or if you’re inspired, go on with something similiar in your own world. Also.

Certainly Scott, and a few other key individuals, taught me much. Ignorance is The Enemy. And I did learn much, through reading, or sometimes great movies can do it. But that’s just a start. Maria rapidly became simply “my friend”, not “my Cuban friend”. Tolerance and open-mindedness becomes internalized, it becomes core and goes to a whole ‘nother level… when there is love. It happens in that moment when an unfamiliar stranger becomes your friend. ‘Specially if you’re fifteen. I would hope that any of us can be the Scott or the Maria for some young people today.

And now for the SURPRISE…. da da duh DAAAAAAH

I found her!!!! Not only found her (yay google & facebook) ~ just a couple of weeks ago, after 30 years MIA ~  but I’ve succeeded in coercing convincing her to sign up and post here! Here is her late comment in my Part 1 Miami Essay last week.

So… I give you Tess… we can scratch “Maria”. heh. I can’t tell you how delighted I am. She has an extremely busy life and probably won’t blog here much, but do give her a warm welcome if you get the chance. Hopefully, she’ll squeeze time to visit this essay in comments today. This should be fun!

The eye of a human being is a microscope, which makes the world seem bigger than it really is. ~Kahlil Gibran



Skip to comment form

  1. especially about some of our travels… another day!

    We weren’t really hippies though, she likes to remind me, we were Peace Activists! lol


    • RiaD on February 11, 2010 at 19:41

    excellent post

    & i just love happy stories!!

    hello tesser!

    i’m so glad you’ve reunited with our LadyL

  2. You spoke from the heart, and you found your old friend again! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Damn, I didn’t read that first essay when you published it, either. How could I have missed it?

    Oh yeah, I’m always at the GOS. πŸ™‚

    And, Tess – welcome to DD!

  3. Tess must be on Cuban time…lolol! If she makes an appearance (I did email her) Ill update the title. πŸ™‚

    Id love to hear rossl’s ‘youthful’ thoughts on this too, at some point. That would be cool.

  4. Delightful story with some “learned” humility thrown in.

    I know you must be excited — rediscovering an old friend is an event that causes an instant warm feeling in the heart and memories!  Happy!  

    • Tesser on February 12, 2010 at 18:13

    Thanks so much for the welcome.  I have enjoyed reading all of these posts and I have now subsribed so I hopefully do not need to deal with an assigned password that I can never remember.

    I did try to get to this on my phone yesterday and could not.  What a great post!!!  The memories of my hair are amazing.  My brother paid $50 for that haircut 40 years ago.  What would that be today, a gazillion dollars??  I think my siblings felt that I was in serious need of a makeover.

    Football as Peace Maker??

    New Orleans, a city in  need of a win, just won the Superbowl and it reminded me that  Miami was a house divided by all sorts of racism until the Miami Dolphins won the superbowl in 1972 and 1973.  People ran out into the streets and for the first time, Blacks, Cubans, Jews, and Whites celebrated together.  It was very healing for Miami and though I believe that playing football is a damn good way to end up brain dead, I am grateful for the ‘togetherness’ that those Superbowls brought to Miami.

    It has been a thrill to reconnect with Lady Libertine.  I will see you soon and hope that you continue to blog on this terrific topic.  Atlanta, where I now live, could absolutely benefit from groups such as the ones that we were involved in as kids.

    Thanks again for the warm welcome!!  Tess

  5. Glad you two found each other again. The best of friendships are the ones we came of age together. I still have two ‘old’ friends, one from 5th grade and one from the mid 60’s. The one from 5th grade stood by me when I was outed in class as being Roma. It showed great courage of her to stand next to me when nobody else would. I will always love her for that.

    Oh the stories I could tell of the trouble I managed to get into with my second friend…

    Whenever I talk to them my gray hair vanishes and wrinkles disappear (not that I have that many) and I turn into this forever young, crazy girl. It’s truly priceless.

    Cherish it!

    Welcome Tess hope you stick around. This is a great place.

Comments have been disabled.