Oscar Hijuelos

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Summarize "Visitors, 1965" by Oscar Hijuelos.

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“Visitors, 1965” is a short story explaining the differences in the experiences of Cuban immigrants to the United States in the twentieth century. Hijuelos demonstrates how the ease with which the immigrants were able to settle in and adapt to their new culture depended greatly on the time of each group’s relocation and the reasons for leaving Cuba in search of a new life.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos (1951–2013) was an American-born author of Cuban descent. His parents immigrated to the United States during the 1940s. Since the mid-twentieth century was a time of great stress in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, Hijuelos felt trapped between two loyalties. In his short story entitled, “Visitor, 1965,” the author explains the different experience levels of Cuban immigrants to the U.S. depending on the time period of their journey and the reasons for leaving their native land.

“Visitor, 1965” tells the story of Cuban immigrant Hector, his family, and their perspectives on the experience of relocating to a foreign nation. Alejo, Hector’s father, traveled to his new destination during the 1920s to provide a better life for his family than Cuba offered to its citizens. At that time, Cuba had only recently attained its independence from Spain but was ruled by a dictatorship. Masses of Cuban nationals sought to escape repression and hoped for a life of safety and security in the United States. It was their dream to see an ultimate rebellion in their homeland from the totalitarian regime. Alejo and those like him were more than willing to work hard for long hours with little compensation for the opportunity to build new lives.

Being cognizant of his father’s struggles and hardships since arriving in America, Hector and his wife Mercedes grew frustrated by the successes of others who left Cuba at a later date after Castro’s revolution in 1959. For example, Hector’s cousin Pedro seemed to reap the benefits and rewards the United States had to offer. When they arrived in America, they had the support of those who paved the way years earlier through many hardships. They were able to secure jobs and were accepted by the people in their communities.

Hijuelos explains that family reunifications following years of separation were not always smooth and happy experiences. Hector, for example, hated the idea of becoming “Americanized.” Stresses among family members often increased due to a general feeling that some immigrants had it easier than others in the transition to a new life in a new land. Those exiled by political upheaval appeared to have a more challenging involvement with their exodus than those seeking a better life in better times with greater opportunities. Hijuelos frames his story of those family pressures amid the rise of Communism in Cuba, political unrest and revolution, and a degree of envy among reuniting families looking backward toward their different levels of hardship embedded in the immigration experience.

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"Visitors, 1965" is a short story about Cuban immigrants and the different attitudes and views they have about their new life in the United States and their old home in Cuba. Hector, the main character, struggles to come to terms with the move and his family's immigrant status. He despises being "Americanized" and revels in memories of Cuba. Alejo, Hector's Father, is proud of their successful journey to the United States, as he is the first in his family to make it. Horacio is the second son of Alejo. Pedro, Hector's cousin, seems to have obtained a part of the American Dream by attaining a stable job, and is thus able to afford his own home and other small luxuries. Pedro is part of the generation of "new" Cuban exiles who emigrate from Cuba, following Alejo's generation. This frustrates Hector and his family, as the new wave of Cuban immigrants appear to fare better in a shorter time than the "old" Cuban exiles.

This short story delves into the political unrest and tension-filled relationship between the United States and Cuba; families were forced to leave Cuba during the political unrest that resulted from Communism being introduced on the island in the early 1800's. Each generation faces different struggles as American opinions of Cuba change over time. This story therefore follows how the American/Cuban political relationship impacted the material realities of immigrants.

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