Vanessa Bell, a Cuban-American, author is building a legacy for her biracial children through memoir writing. (

SpanglishBaby: Learning how to be an American from an immigrant

The holidays are moments when memories are made. As it is with my family, made up of immigrants and multigenerational Americans alike, we gather around a table of feast to live and relive our heritage. Memories are kept through the love of our elders and joys of our youth, legacies of culture and thanks are built. No matter where my celebrations take place, my heart beats the Cuban heritage that has been passed down to me from the roots of my ancestors and, with it, a deep appreciation for what it means to be an American.

It may seem odd that a family of immigrants would gather to honor a holiday of thanks to a country not viewed as their own. I recall many Thanksgivings at my grandparents’ home, indulging on lechón y platanitos fritos, the songs of Cuban Spanish flying from one ear to the next, skipping over the plethora of conversations found within one breath: Manuel showing off the scar from his forced labor experience in the Cuban sugar fields, my grandfather at the table’s head, ushering in massive plates of food, screaming out each marvel’s main ingredient as it passes by, the women orchestrating the flan’s grand entrance, my Mom’s quiet, sheepish grin (the Cuban pace was never quite her thing). And me – just happy. In the midst of the Cuban chaos, I remember feeling utterly happy. As true as my belly was full, so was my heart with the heritage and language that exists in my veins.

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