Lorena Inclán, a reporter with CBS47/FOX30 Action News Jax, delivered an inspirational message at the Main Library on Feb. 1 to help launch this year’s JAX READS!/NEA Big Read initiative. The event announced The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the novel that the entire community will be reading and discussing together through March 11. Lorena said it was an “honor” to share her story, which she said was similar to the main character in The Namesake.
Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Lorena is a first generation American, proud to call herself an American and equally proud of her roots and heritage. Her grandparents were persecuted by the Castro regime. Her grandmother spent two years in prison for “anti-revolutionary” activity. Her parents’ home was ransacked. Members of her family were called gusanos, the Spanish word for worms, a name given to those who didn’t sympathize with the communist government.
In 1985 Lorena’s mother, with her 5-month-old brother in tow, left her homeland to meet her dad in Panama. Her dad, a veterinarian, had left a few months earlier and was forced to pay $17,000 to Cuba for depriving the country of his services. From there the journey to America took them to El Salvador then finally to Miami to freedom.
Lorena was born a year later and named from a Spanish novela. “There’s a lot in a name,” said Lorena. “It’s the first layer of our identity; it’s our family’s story.”
“There’s a lot in a name. It’s the first layer of our identity; it’s our family’s story.”
Growing up in a family of immigrants had its challenges, including the language barrier. As soon as she learned to read, Lorena became her family’s official translator and translated the mail, a skill that came in handy when she took a reporter position in Spanish TV news years later.
Lorena is thankful her parents fled an oppressive regime so she and her brother could have a better life—so she could practice journalism, and read books of her choice. Her grandmother often tells her about the piles of debris on the road in the early days of the revolution—mounds of books the government burned to prevent people from reading. To this day, many books are banned in Cuba.
“I’m thankful that’s not our reality,” Lorena said. “Books are valuable, reading is paramount, it’s in the books where we will find the knowledge and it’s that knowledge we need to succeed. Next time you pick up a book, remember it’s your gateway to whatever you want to achieve—a gateway many people wish they had.”
“Next time you pick up a book, remember it’s your gateway to whatever you want to achieve.”
Lorena is “proud beyond proud” to be the daughter of Cuban exiles. She said, “Their sacrifice is what pushes me to work hard because they didn’t go through all that suffering for me to not succeed.”
If you are interested in learning more, you can read a transcript of Lorena Inclán’s remarks.