I'm a first generation Cuban-American, born of parents who met in America but both left Cuba in 1980 during the Mariel Boatlift. My mother's family won a lottery of sorts in which most of her family was allowed to leave the island. My father spent his 20s in prison for continually leaving the forced military service. His only option was to falsely tell government officials that he intended to make trouble in America; at the time, many prisoners were being allowed to leave. That was how he got passage, his intention being to make money in America and help his family back home. I was born in the late 80's and grew up listening to them talk about how things were in their youth, and how quickly they went bad.
I visited Cuba in the mid 90's, during what would be known as the Special Period, a time of increasing hunger and societal change on the island due to the earlier fall of the Soviet Union and the end of its subsidies for Cuba. They leaned heavily into their tourist economy after this, barring residents from renting hotels and certain foods saved only for tourists among other things.
We stayed with my father's family in his childhood home. It was literally made of wooden boards and you could see the moonlight stream in through the cracks at night. There was no A/C, blackouts were common, and I saw a lot of hunger and difficulty. But the people were happy and friendly. I remember roaming the streets late at night with a mob of kids my age, rolling down hills in homemade scooters until midnight and teaching them my favorite bad words in English. My father was able to pay for the utility company to erect a post and provide better and more electricity for his block. It's sad how incredibly cheap it all was to get done. He got the first refrigerator his home ever had during that trip.
Growing up–aside from the times we visited–Cuba to me was always something on the periphery. A tragic situation that could be better if only it's government would listen to reason and change its ways, but really no more than that. The world largely left it alone. Local news in South Florida sometimes covered developments, but there were rarely any. And this apathy of sorts translated into pop culture's perception of the island.
Whenever Cuba came up in pop culture, it was always gotten wrong. The people looked and sounded like the stereotypical "Caribbean/South American" country and that always irked me. Cubans are unique, like all people. They look a certain way; eat, drink, play a certain way; and they certainly sound a certain way. I've never heard the Cuban dialect anywhere but there, and at home in South Florida, and no game I've seen has ever gotten it right.
Storm Rising has got me really excited. Blizzard–and Overwatch specifically–has always put forth a lot of effort to get culture right: From doing their best to try to hire voice actors who are from where their characters are from, to adding cultural references to character skins and voice lines. With what little we know of Storm Rising, we've already seen a reference to Morro Castle and its cultural significance. The Cuban backdrop we've seen in clips and in the skin reveal seems lived-in and organic, the classic cars seem like part of the world, not just props solely because everyone knows there are classic cars in Cuba. If I'm expecting a video game company to get this right, It's Blizzard.
I'm just very excited because no one else does their homework like Blizzard, and now they've set their sights on something that's special to me.
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