When people ask me when I'm going to write a book about my own personal experiences as a journalist, I tell them I already wrote it in my columns: When the man who delivered milk to your doorstep becomes a national political figure, when a childhood friend goes to war and gets killed, when your own mother is affected by draconian measures coming out of Congress, when some of your friends live in fear of being deported, that’s when the news gets personal.
Journalists strive to be objective. Somehow, we are expected to suppress those very personal sentiments about issues affecting our loved ones. And yet sometimes we can’t stop the tears from falling on our notepads. Luckily, as an opinion columnist for more than three decades, I've had the privilege to be able to express what reporters feel when the news gets personal. This new section of MiguelPerez.com will be devoted to my autobiographical columns. Every so often, I will post another one of my very personal columns. Of course, this is totally subjective, but I believe they are my best! Check out:
I had done it before so I thought it wouldn't be so difficult. In delivering funeral eulogies, unfortunately, I've had some practice. But it was always for a friend who passed, never for one of my relatives.
In my own family funerals, I always deferred the eulogy speech to my brother, Beny, who had a special knack for speaking, and even singing, in public. I knew he could do it much better.
Yet, there I was, standing in Beny's shoes, speaking in church, delivering a family eulogy at a funeral. And I had to find the courage to do it. Of all of us in the Perez family who came from Cuba in the early 1960s, I'm the only one left alive. It was my turn to speak for the "familia."
June 2, 2000 - There I was, in a cocktail reception at the fancy lobby of a Manhattan office building, watching "The King of Latin Music" perform with his band. I thought I had mingled enough to become just one more of the 300 Latinos who were there to celebrate their heritage.
But when he really wanted to impress you, no one could do it like Tito Puente.
In the middle of a song, as he played his timbales with lightning speed, Tito spotted me in the crowd. And as he continued playing, he began to wave his hands, quite artistically, in my direction. Read more . . .
My American Birthday
April 3, 2012 -- There are no photos of that day. No one in my family took pictures on the morning I left my native Cuba. But those images never will leave me. Immigrants never forget the day we begin our new lives in the United States.
It becomes almost like a second birthday, a cherished holiday, a day to travel back in time and remember the reasons we became Americans. Read more . . .
This photo was taken in Miami, a few days after our arrival from Cuba in 1962.
April 4, 1993 - We come from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico, and many other places south of the U.S. border. We represent 19 nationalities. We are the most diverse group that ever came to this country. Our taste in food, music, and many other ingredients of our culture are similar, but not always the same. We share the same language, but with some dialectal variations. We represent all the races in the rainbow. We are Latino Americans.
As we migrated north, searching for the Latino American Dream, many of us have settled in North Jersey, becoming a noticeable portion of the population in recent years.
Nov. 26, 1997 - Early in the morning, back in the late 1960s when I was a teenager in Miami's Little Havana, my grandfather would get up to wait for the milkman.
Miguel Martinez, my namesake, was old and sick at that time, but on the days when milk was delivered to our doorstep, he would stand guard on the porch at the crack of dawn. It wasn't the milk that made him wait. He just wouldn't miss an opportunity to have a conversation with the aggressive and dynamic young milkman, who spoke extensively and with passion -- as did my grandfather — about the struggle to liberate Cuba from Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship. Read more . . .
Published in The Record of Hackensack, NJ. on January 2, 2000
Editor's Note: Record columnist Miguel Perez recently went on a journey in search of his family roots. He didn't have to go back to his native Cuba. No one there could tell him the things he could learn in Miami – from his 101-year-old grandmother. The wrinkles on her face are few for her age. Her smile and friendly disposition could make you swear she is at ast 20 years younger. Her memory slips a little, but she still has the wit and sense of humor of a dynamic young woman. Yet Friday was her 101st birthday. Her name is Ramona Ofelia Martinez, a grand old lady who lives in Miami. I love her dearly. She's my grandmother. Read more ...
July 23, 2003 -- For the last few days, people have been telling me that Celia Cruz is dead, that she died of a brain tumor Wednesday at her home in Fort Lee. I refuse to believe it. Celia is immortal. Read more . . .
July 7, 2000 - It was a New Year's Eve in the late Sixties and there we were, three Cuban refugee teenagers, wearing cheap suits and pretending to be able to mingle with the rich tourists who rushed through the lobby of the fancy Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. Everyone seemed to be heading somewhere in a hurry. After all, the clock was ticking and they all wanted to be somewhere else before midnight. Read more
To start this new section, I chose my column about the man who inspired me to become a journalist. Check out:
Unlike any other godfather I ever have seen — except in the movies — this man took that responsibility very seriously. He was an amazing father to his two daughters, and he treated his godson like the son he never had. He is the one who launched fireworks on the day the godson was born, the one who drove for a long distance to get the magical eardrops that took away the godson's pain, the one who knew exactly the gift the godson wanted for his birthday and for Christmas, the one who was always there with words of encouragement. "You can do it," he would say. "Nothing can stop you." . . . Read more