It’s a windy Saturday winter night in Richland. Stevens Drive is unusually quiet for a Saturday. But come to think about it, we’re talking about a windy winter night on Stevens Drive. Of course it’s quiet.
Here inside my house it’s a different place. Posters from Carnaval Miami hang on my walls. They are the typical symbols of Cuban culture and folklore, aromatic cafes, men in guayaberas smoking big, fat Cuban cigars and the almost holy Palma real.
I’m feeling nostalgic, for Miami and for Cuba.
We have loud salsa music playing in the background. The music fills my heart and mind with images of hot, sweaty dancing during summer nights in Miami. My heart beats so fast with the spilling out of memories that all I want to do is run out to the street and yell: “TRI-CITIES WAKE UP AND JOIN THE PARTY, I HAVE MOJITOS WAITING FOR YOU AND LETS DANCE.”
That moment I realized I’ve lived here for over two years and can’t remember the last time I went out dancing.
A group of us are sitting around my table savoring a plate of Spanish tapas and a glass of Chilean Cabernet.
It’s a mix of people. I take inventory: there is a couple of Cubans and Americans, a Mexican, an Englishman, a couple of Colombians.
I have a melting pot of cultures sitting around my table. They are sitting around my table inside an old North Richland split-level home in the Tri-Cities. In Google Maps, it says I live near the Gold Coast Historic District. Far away from any of the places we call home.
I’ve always been jealous of “locals.” People who were born in a place and never left. They grew up here, they came of age here, and they made their life here. I envy them because they have never had to worry about fitting in or making friends or missing family.
I’ve never lived in any place long enough to feel at home. I’ve always been consumed with an unwavering feeling of nostalgia and loss of belonging.
Then I realize. Here in the Tri-Cities, almost everyone I know is a transplant, whether they came from the Midwest or the East Cost or South America or the Caribbean or China. Just take a good look around my table. We’ve got a quilt of diverse cultures and stories in this not so small town. Unique individual stories that make up our larger history.
It may have all started with a nuclear plant and atomic bombs, but Hanford is not such a big part of our narrative anymore.
The Tri-Cities is just like many global cities, a place that welcomes people from all over the world with promise of opportunity and community. I may leave in a couple of years but I may never leave.
I belong in this crazy hodgepodge of cultures and ideas. This is the Tri-Cities.
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