Chabeli Herrera


Chabeli Herrera and her father, Pedro Herrera, in Cardenas, Cuba
Me and my father, Pedro Herrera, at the park across my house in Cardenas, Cuba.

My hometown, like my culture, is very near and dear to my heart. I was born in Cardenas,Cuba, a tiny, and for the most part, insignificant, coastal town in north central Cuba. My small town of horse-drawn carriages, narrow streets and wooden houses is known for being the location at which the Cuban flag was first raised on Cuban soil. So, at least we have one thing.

But for me, it’s just home.

I lived in Cardenas with my family until I was 4 years old. I moved to the United States with my mother and stepfather that year, leaving behind a father, uncles, aunts, a slew of cousins, grandparents, and soon, siblings, too. I always felt fortunate to have the opportunity to be educated and grow up in the United States. We moved to Miami, and with it’s prevalent Hispanic culture, home was never too far behind.

A horse-drawn carraige in front of my home in Cardenas, Cuba
Horse-drawn carriages are a common occurrence in Cardenas.

I return to Cuba every two years to visit my family. I missed the birth of my half sister, now 14, but have had the opportunity to reconnect over the years. I talk to my dad frequently to stay connected and he, more than anyone, looks forward to my visits.

My culture is a very central part of who I am. Growing up in Miami and then moving away from it all to Gainesville, I’ve realized just how much.

So after all this time, I’m proud to say I’m from that little, middle-of-nowhere town. It’s a part of me just as much as I’m a part of it.