Embracing America
A Cuban Exile Comes of Age

Margaret L. Paris

Foreword by Miguel Bretos
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"Elena Maza's fascinating odyssey is a story at once heart-rending and inspiring, exploring with the utmost candor the pain of exile and resettlement and the ongoing conversation with Cuba and Cuban identity. It carries the power of the personal testimony and the sweeping scope of the family saga."--from the foreword by Miguel A. Bretos, Smithsonian Institution

From a child refugee of Operation Pedro Pan, a mission similar to the Kindertransport of World War II and the only political exodus ever of unaccompanied children in the Western Hemisphere, comes this touching tale of adventure and coming of age in America. After Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, more than 14,000 children, unaccompanied by their parents, were airlifted to the United States in a controversial effort to provide an opportunity for a better life. This book is Elena Maza's page in that great collective story, masterfully captured in a series of interviews.

In 1961, at the age of thirteen, Elena Maza and her two sisters left their parents in Cuba and were placed in foster homes in the United States. Eventually reunited with her parents, who also managed to immigrate, Embracing America is the story of the Maza family's survival and Elena’s adaptation to life in the United States. Ironically, Elena left a Marxist revolution to encounter a social one: a civil rights struggle, an anti-Vietnam war insurgency, a women's movement, a sexual revolution, and the drug culture of the 1960s and 1970s.

From childhood exile through the Woodstock Nation to the rediscovery of her Cuban identity, marriage, and the earned respect of the Washington and New York arts and community advocacy scenes, Elena Maza emerges as a remarkable woman who was one of the participants in the significant historical events of the last century.

Margaret Paris is a writer and photographer who teaches at Georgetown University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

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