Retired Brownsville prof, Cuban exile reflects on growing up in Puerto Ricodfwnewsa | November 28, 2023 | 1 | East Texas News , South Texas News
University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Emeritus Professor of Literature and Culture Eduardo Del Rio recently published a book titled “CubaRican” about his experiences as a Cuban exile growing up in Puerto Rico, a familiar experience shared by Latinos who have moved from their native country.
Born in Havana, Del Rio left Cuba at 4 years old and eventually moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The book features bilingual short stories, vignettes and poems detailing Del Rio growing up in Puerto Rico as a Cuban.
Staying in Puerto Rico until finishing high school, Del Rio would then move to the Valley for college attending legacy institution Pan American University. Obtaining his bachelors and masters in the Valley, Del Rio attended Texas A&M for his doctoral degree and eventually taught at the University of Texas Pan American, University of Texas at Brownsville and UTRGV.
Del Rio said in a phone interview that the overall theme of the around 100-page book is specific and universal.
“I would call it a stranger in not such a strange land,” he said. “Because everything is similar but still different. As a child trying to adapt to that, how he fits into that culture and trying to form an identity within those two cultures. But at the same time, it’s a universal thing that every child goes through an awakening, trying to fit in and see where he or she belongs.”
Initially writing the book in English, Del Rio and the publisher Mouthfeel Press, agreed to have the book translated into Spanish with Del Rio doing the translations himself.
Several characters are throughout the book in addition to himself as a child. One example is his Puerto Rican stepfather. He said characters even represent the conflict of the book with some symbolizing the Puerto Rican aspect in contrast to his Cuban aspect.
Hosting a book release event Nov. 2 at the Búho Bookstore in Brownsville, Del Rio said about 40 people were there and the reaction was great.
With not many Puerto Ricans and Cubans in the Valley, he said a lot of his Mexican-American colleagues told him that his stories and poetry spoke to them. Del Rio said this is because his book is similar to traditional Mexican-American works that explore bicultural identity.
“They explore it, though, in a slightly different way that I’m doing,” he said. “They write about being either Mexican or Asian and American. With my book I think this is the same thing but a different way. It’s being both Cuban and Puerto Rican. And so because of that, there’s a clear connection between those two thoughts, you know, they also have this sense of duality.”
“CubaRican” is available to purchase on major online booksellers such as Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop.org.
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