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Miriam Lay

Miriam Lay

Chinese-Cuban American and Teacher

Born: Havana City, Cuba
Heritage: Cuban-Chinese American

My mother would say, “if you are going to give something to me, give it to me when I’m alive.” Show respect for everyone…and love.

Miriam Lay

Chinese-Cuban American and Teacher

My name is Miriam Lay. I was born in Cuba on November 4, 1938. My parents were Chinese. My dad was born in China. My mother was the first generation of Chinese born in Cuba.

The population of Cuba is mainly Spanish descent. During the colonization period, the native people were forced to do very hard work. Many died. Later, Africans were imported to the island by the Spaniards, to work on the plantations. In 1902, Cuba earned its independence. At that time, there was an immigration of Chinese to work in Cuba.

I have great memories of my childhood. I started Catholic school at seven. I was the first Chinese student in that school. The nuns had very high standards and values. After I graduated, I studied pharmacy at the University of Havana. My schooling was interrupted by the revolution.

I met my husband, Amando, while in college. He had already graduated and was practicing law. In April 1960, my mother died. In June of 1960 I was married.
The revolution occurred in 1959. I left Cuba in 1962 looking for freedom in the United States. You don’t always know when you have freedom, but you feel it when you don’t.

When we arrived in Miami we each had only two pairs of shoes, two changes of clothes…that was it. Our son, Amando Jr. was 11 months old. We were fortunate because a friend of my husband was already there to help us.

From Miami, we went to Denver. In Denver we were helped by the Presbyterian Church. We were young and did any kind of work. My husband took courses at Denver University. He was able to find a teaching position in Great Falls, Montana. Later he was hired by Gustavus Adolphus College in Northfield.

In Northfield, I worked for a local bank. I also did Spanish translation for the Green Giant Company. I went to Gustavus Adolphus and graduated with a business and economic degree.

After my husband retired, I found a job in Bloomington. Our son had graduated from college, so we moved to Eden Prairie. We’ve been here for 19 years. My favorite place is where God has put me.

What I always try to be is a human being. I don’t think people should be labeled. The way you act in everyday life is how the person inside you develops.

Notation: Download PDF

I'm a Chinese-Cuban American

Honoring Miriam Lay

I’m a Chinese Cuban American
Inspired by Miriam Lay

I was born in Cuba
Not far from Havana
Colonized by the Spaniards
for hundreds of years
After they killed the native
people of the island
They brought in the Africans
to work them as slaves
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

My father came from China
My mother from Cuba
My father owned a grocery store
My mother kept the books
At home we spoke Spanish
But my Dad had a funny
But we understood
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

I went to a Catholic school
At the age of seven
I was the first Chinese
student in that school
We wore white uniforms
They were impeccable
We were taught to work hard
And to respect everyone
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

We were a democracy
Until Batiste
Took power over Cuba
Took our freedom away
What you don’t know when you have it
You feel it when you don’t
When Castro took over
We said, “Adios!”
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

With my son and my husband
We fled to Miami
We had to start over
We did all kinds of work
My husband decided
To go back to college
To become a professor
We moved way out west
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

My favorite place on Earth is
where God has put me
We moved to Eden Prairie
Not far from my work
No one should be labeled
Respect everybody
How you act each day is
what you become
I’m a Chinese Cuban American (4x)

Words by LARRY LONG with Steve Johnson’s 3rd grade of Eden Lake Elementary School
(Eden Prairie, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2004