Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being Nikkei in Cuba, WW2

 I would like to go to Isla de la Juventud, where the largest community of Nikkei Cubans are (Japanese immigrants and their descendants). It is an 1.5 hour ferry crossing to a beautiful place! Here is a story dear to my Nikkei heart. During the war, Batista was pressured as other Caribbean and Latin American leaders by the US government to do a parallel effort of imprisoning their Japanese citizens. The US plan, especially in Peru, was to use those kidnapped Latin American citizens as prisoner exchange. They succeeded in doing one boat load, but when Japan realized they were not getting Japanese but immigrants to another land they refused to do further negotiation and these kidnapped Japanese Latin Americans were put into Crystal City (TX) prison camp and became people without a country, separated from their families. That is not the heartwarming story, though. Batista imprisoned men 15 years old and older at Presidio Modelo on the island. They were crammed in, and their families also suffered because women and children were left to take care of subsistence farming. The difference between the Cuban Nikkei experience and the experience of US Nikkei in WW2 concentration camps was that when the Cuban neighbors finished plowing their fields, they came over and plowed the fields of these families, for the most part mono-lingual Japanese. They remained Neighbors rather than become part of a national environment of hatred. When Cuban Nikkei are asked if they felt more Cuban or Japanese, they are puzzled at that question. "We're Cuban!" they say. When they are asked if there is a baseball game between Cuba and Ja- before the words came out they shouted "Japonaise!" They are proud of their roots but they experience more inclusion in Cuba than many other places. My main reason that I personally wish the end of the blockade is because my country, the US, does not allow our cultural exchange and oral history exchange with Japanese in Cuba. They allow art exchanges, Christian exchanges, but not us. That is discriminatory! The blockade discriminates against Nikkei!

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.