What happens to a country's nationality when its population splits and grows apart for forty-five years? What does it mean to be Cuban if you're raised in Miami? What does it mean to be Cuban if you are raised and born in Cuba?
Both types of Cubans mingle in the terminals of Miami's International Airport as they wait for the boarding call to Cuba. Men and women who have spent their adult lives outside of Cuba talk freely with the men and women who call Cuba home. Watching them interact, one can't help but look for the points of contrast and similarities in their conversations. "Whatever you do," says one of the Cuban passengers, "don't talk about politics." Yet politics may be one of the single most important issue dividing the two sets of Cubans.
Political dissent towards the changes in Cuba during the first years after the Revolution fueled the early exile movement. The displaced Cuban population constructed Little Havana, forging a different Cuban identity just ninety miles away from the Havana they left behind. But, does different mean separate? Perhaps, in the words of historian Luís A. Pérez Jr, national identity is neither fixed nor immutable, and instead always in flux as it "adjusts and reconciles perceptions of reality with changing needs."
For example, despite the different social and economic opportunities available to either set of Cubans, all the passengers on the flight nodded their heads ferociously when one Cuban said, "la familia no se negocia" (family cannot be negotiated). The relationship one has with their family depends on what end one stands on. Both sides look to the other with love, nostalgia and endearment. In addition, many of those who live in Cuba look to their families as access to much needed dollars. Their counterparts outside of Cuba send monetary help as a way to preserve the memories and ties with a country they can no longer call home. Ultimately, the approval and head shaking upon hearing that "family cannot be negotiated," reflects one of the strongest unifying factors between the diverging Cuban identities: the sense of community.