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Exile Epics: Marco Rubio to the Senate

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, exile, Miami, Video - lecture and discussion Add comments

It is worth listening to the new senator elect for Florida and TeaParty sympathizer Marco Rubio‘s acceptance speech. I had to listen to it after a friend reported that his speech was dishearteningly right-wing while another friend (Cuban exile) reported to be filled with emotion.

To me, it sounds awfully out of step with the experience of many people in this country (all those who have not managed to go from bellboy to president); but I suppose he is not talking to them here. He is paying homage to his family’s journey, and that is emotional: “I have been raised in a community that lost their country…  This is the story of the Cuban exile community… I will always be the son of exiles...” His is an American Dream story, an immigrant fable that says that you can make it to the top by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps; a story that was compelling at one point but that it sounds now more incredible than winning the lottery.  He talks about “the greatest society in human history” and about America as “the strongest country in the world” and “an extraordinary society where every dream is possible;” “there is at least one place in this planet where it doesn’t matter if your father was a bartender and your mom was a maid. You can accomplish anything you want if you’re willing to work hard for it and play by the rules” (“the rules” being a signal that illegal immigration will not be tolerated). From Cuban exceptionalism to American exceptionalism.

His is also an anti-communist parable:  He has been compared with Reagan and he indeed sounds like someone coming out from the Cold. Even though Marco Rubio does not mention the words “communism” or “revolution”– for him the Cuban Revolution is “an accident of history”– his narrative is a sort of Reaganesque reverse orientalism. His politics, far to the right of Reagan. If, according to the sociological lore, the first generation of exiles were visibly and famously Republican, and the one-and-a-half generation a rebel -with a high profile in academia and a significant number of them joining various brigades and going to Cuba in defiance of their parents- the second remains, let’s say, under studied. Another one of its members is the Republican congressman just elected for Miami, David Rivera, born in 1965, former manager of radio and TV Marti.

UPDATE (Nov. 5). For a broader social and generational perspective on both Rubio’s election and Ileana Rosh-Lehtinen’s reelection to Congress (feared to become the next chairperson of the Foreign Affairs committee, with its obvious negative implications for US Cuban academic exchanges), I recommend the just-published piece on the latest issue of Foreign Policy by colleague Arturo Lopez-Levy, Not Your Father’s Cuba.

One Response to “Exile Epics: Marco Rubio to the Senate”

  1. Tweets that mention Ethno Cuba » Blog Archive » Exile Epics: Marco Rubio to the Senate -- Topsy.com Says:

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