William Silva and Laylah Silva

Recorded January 16, 2010 Archived January 17, 2010 31:49 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX006240


William Silva, 63, and his daughter, Laylah Silva, 38 talk about William’s life growing up coming back an d forth from Cuba to the United States, and their unconventional family.

Subject Log / Time Code

William talks about his parents and grandparents and the different place they came from. He talks about his mother’s bohemian ancestors, his great-grandfathers from the Dominican Republic, and his French (via Haiti and New-Orleans) relatives who never considered themselves Cuban.
William remembers a church in Cuavitas, a small town five miles off Santiago. His grandfather was good friends with the priest there but always warned William about going to that church and forbade him to talk to his priest friend.
William remembers playing marbles with the black kids in his neighborhood in Cuba, never thinking of them as black or of himself as white. He remembers playing “chapita” fights (with bottle caps) and collecting “chapitas” as precious ammunition from bars and corner stores.
Laylah talks about how she felt weird and marginalized growing up, partly because of her diverse background and unconvetional family. William ays that it’s good to be marginalized and that he cannot understand how people can classify themselves or mark themselves into a box.
William talks about how his fear of heights led him to take flight lessons and eventually become a pilot.


  • William Silva
  • Laylah Silva


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00:04 My name is Lila Silva. I'm 38 years old. Today is January 16th, 2010. I mean Miami Florida and I'm With My Father William soda.

00:17 My name is Willie Silva. I'm 63 years old today is January 16th, 2010. I'm in Miami Florida with my daughter Lila.

00:31 Hi, Daddy.

00:33 Hi Lila.

00:35 You always have a hard time deciding what you are after a Cuban. If you're American, you must have been really hard coming from Cuba to Miami. What do you remember what it was like needed the first day you came knowing you're going to stay. The problem is I came from Miami to Cuba. I was born in Miami and at 6 weeks old.

00:58 My mother went to Cuba and so I have this incredible dual.

01:05 Will it rain in Shippuden? I don't know where I am where I'm from really? My father was very much in American, you know gung-ho Air Force guy in

01:20 Hannah

01:22 Deborah when we went back and forth to Cuba made times on the ferry and and but my main education so I was like 13 years old was in Cuba.

01:34 Did you feel like an outsider and she was?

01:37 No one.

01:40 I never felt like an outsider and thank you. Bye.

01:45 I used to it wasn't that I would lived in Cuba. I wish to come to United States and then become an American then I used to go back to Cuba and become an American that used a Cubist. So and you should take me like six or seven weeks or so to get my languages of souls put together. So I spoke Spanish in Cuba and English in the United States. So I was always with my grandparents.

02:22 So are you still living in the country in Cuba, so

02:28 So I guess I've always been confused. I don't but I consider myself an American.

02:41 I had the greatest childhood memories.

02:46 I think any person can ever have

02:49 I was

02:52 Hey.

02:54 I lived in the country outside of Santiago Cuba all the way in oriente province in there.

03:03 You know I used to go.

03:07 Bathing in the river singing to cows which is in those days people in the end of dairy farms used to sing to cows. So they used to

03:20 That used to make me very interesting why they used to sing to the cows and and it was a very beautiful song these Farmers used to sing to their cows and

03:31 I don't know why I don't know if I can remember I can do that. It's

03:35 But it was beautiful. I used to thought it was beautiful.

03:41 Then you know they were there were a lot of kids and and you know.

03:50 Heading where I used to live there. They were in over used to it was a rape free place. We used to play marbles and we used to play Throne Poe.

04:03 I went to the Sun.

04:05 Halo spinning tops used to destroy each other's tops if you're lost.

04:10 It was a very exciting childhood very very very playing very a lot of imagination, you know, rolling down the hillside inside of a 55 gallon drum in Owen survive in the potatoes in the potatoes used to have the bull used to be the king of the Potato Head. She had his Harem of cows and used to harass the other place. We used to climb trees. And sometimes you have to stay there till the sun set.

04:52 To get down because bull bucket sitting up and down there looking at us Grant. I don't know to harm to us.

05:03 I have a lot of good memories a lot of great memories.

05:08 So you may also remember when we came to Miami and you know, Miami in those days was

05:19 Very small

05:23 You're going to live in the Miccosukee Indians around 20 set. They had a

05:29 On 27th Avenue leaves to have a bear home.

05:34 So when I used to go to the country to go to Hialeah, so it was a very small place and it was a lot of fun.

05:49 One thing that I do remember that always impressed me.

05:53 Is Young Lyric when we came to Miami?

05:59 Black people the black Americans used to ride in the back of the bus and my mother

06:06 My mother used to get pretty mad at that and

06:13 She used to make me and her divide the back of the bus. It says see if it's good enough for them. It's good enough for us.

06:22 Sao Paulo things like that you bring that you know, you're making me pee right now because here I'm reminding a lot of things that I forgot.

06:35 What do you remember what do you do?

06:38 Do you think about that time that the last time you left out there. She has house do you did you know that you were not going to come back?

06:48 No, I never thought that we were never going to go back.

06:53 It was a

06:57 LOL

07:00 We never thought it was going to be per mile. Are we going to stay here for so long for the rest of my life? Basically. Basically I never went back.

07:17 Forgot to tell you that.

07:19 We come from a very unusual, but I'ma let you know, we're all my my mother's ancestors were all painters and sculptors. And in Bohemian types. They were the other used to be Church painters and

07:39 And you know, they were always involved in politics and and

07:45 The other stories

07:48 From my

07:50 From my mother's my great-grandfather's and you know, they're always circulated in the in the stories, you know.

07:58 So go that kind of mold me in a way that it was.

08:03 You know, I never thought of myself as

08:07 I think you when I was older, you know, my great-grandfather was one of them in the country public and and then they on my on my other grandfather's side and they were making all these they came they they they were from Haiti originally and they went to and they got kicked out of Haiti and the independence of Haiti. They were they went to New Orleans and then from New Orleans that you moved to do some type of Cuba and witches.

08:37 You know and they always kept their French.

08:42 Ancestry they always registered the kids with the French Embassy. They consider yourself French, you know, then even today my mother if you tell her that she's cute and she'll deny that she's French.

08:54 So what kind of confuses me so maybe it wasn't so much about that but the name of the place, but the memories that you have from there. Did you feel did you feel free or there then you fulfill here.

09:09 I live the life. They are that probably doesn't exist anymore. It's just I was very lucky. I always say to myself that it was very lucky that I that I had and you know, I used to hear Buck Rogers on the radio and I wasn't, you know, when and I saw the first television stations in Miami and channel for 1954 ain't on the so I wasn't that transition I was

09:41 When when things are still country, you know, they were still allowed houses and and

09:52 You know people used to cook with charcoal and coal and and in their homes and and I saw the transmission for gas stoves, Minnesota transitional radio turning into television.

10:11 So when I look back I'm not I don't consider myself that old but I see the transition. I was very lucky to see that so

10:19 How you know of airplanes with propellers turning into Jets excetera and it's it's a

10:25 I know you think about those things all the time.

10:32 Do you miss you miss the idea of living in artistic and Bohemian life?

10:39 It's funny you say that because I do consider myself.

10:45 Artistic bohemian

10:56 I don't know.

10:58 I'm not a conventional person by no means.

11:02 I'm always I always was a the yard guy in school and

11:08 But very nice way I wasn't.

11:13 When are you telling me that when you first learned that when you finally knew you're going to stay here and they put you in an Archbishop Curley cuz that you don't notice that you had done really well in school and math and I put you back three years and that was really painful for you because they'll said in your they thought of you as a dummy because you can speak English well and with school and some type of Cuba same school if it went through and it was a kid.

11:50 And I was always winning prices and I used to love ancient history. I used to love math. And and so, you know, I

12:00 I got your location was very advanced.

12:05 For you know for 12 or 13 year old.

12:09 And those schools and in Cuba when I came to United States, you know, we were we were starting to know calculus a beginning type. It isn't over here. They put me in the beginning of your end.

12:24 Technically was board for 4.

12:28 Two or three years

12:30 And

12:32 But I was really bad at spelling and handwriting a guy couldn't handle it.

12:41 Actor

12:43 No me know after so many years I discovered that I was dyslexic and I can write well, but it wasn't a problem in Spanish because Spanish is a phonetic language. If you're if you're ever going to be at this flight think you might as well. If you live in a phonetic language, you don't even know you're for this like so when I came to United States and and went back to school here and I got used to an English which is a totally different languages that you don't write the way use. It was it's not for Natick. It confused me a lot. I had a hard time and that part in the in the writing partner everything is writing so

13:27 It was very difficult for me for a while.

13:31 In high school here

13:34 I went for a top student and if you worked for a dummy here in the United States.

13:43 But I kind of separated. It was also a very Catholic school and my family has never been the religious type.

13:53 So

13:55 All right, it's not the Rebellion is it it was you know, one of these guys doing over here with all these mumble jumble, so I was kind of I felt out of place.

14:06 So

14:07 I was never my family was never religious in any way.

14:11 So I felt very strange about that.

14:20 Sorry, I didn't make your religious either.

14:27 That's unusual though.

14:33 A study a lot about religion. I

14:38 Play is always a Wonder from me how people going to be religious. So I guess in a way it's

14:47 It makes me.

14:49 Curious about faith

14:57 To me not having a faith in the believing in anything is more faith than you know, you do need more faith for that.

15:06 I have been being ridiculous. It's got out of there and it's just dangerous territory.

15:18 Well, it was a funny thing by my grandfather.

15:23 We had a real small Church in a little town and the little town and see where we used to live. It was like maybe 5 miles of the outskirts of some type of cube.

15:41 And there was a small Church they are.

15:44 Anna

15:47 My grandfather was a very good friend of the priests.

15:52 And we used to talk a lot to the. So see him talk a lot to the priests a lot.

15:57 But you should tell me not to go there that it was an evil place. So I was a very friendly guy and we used to laugh and everything with the priest but needs at the same time. You tell me not to go in because it was an evil place so I can confuse me and everything, you know in a religious sense, so

16:22 But my grandmother was very very worried about.

16:28 I refuse to sit in Jesus sit in the chair and she used to read a Bible all the time and she's to have that statue. What was it? What was the prayer book?

16:43 And that's usually she was very good about us have one, Bosco.

16:47 How are used to hate going by that?

16:52 Well, I used to go with her blue and I when I was like five or six year olds, I used every Tuesday. I used to go to the San Juan Bosco Church and Sons I will keep up with her. She used to be able to choose to go every Tuesday.

17:08 But you know later on in life when I was in the twenties. I asked her once if you really believe in all that stuff and she says well just in case you told me yet, you know, it's just in case there is something there that she's good. She's good at it good for if I don't know that you know that you're 63, do you and say like one day keep it doesn't go open up. Would you want to go back and live there?

17:41 It's going to be so change site. I go to Google Maps and I and I look at the place. I used to live as a kid and its all full of buildings and houses in so it's not.

17:57 So if I go, there are probably going to be very disappointed.

18:01 So I kind of like to live in the memory of you know, the memory that I have.

18:07 What's your best memory your most favorite memory of being there?

18:16 And so many good memories.

18:23 I used to I used to love playing marbles.

18:27 It with the kids in the neighborhood.

18:30 And they were all black was the only white kid there.

18:35 And my grandmother used to think that was scandalous as is but I never thought of them as Black Rain and they were just kids here.

18:49 Yeah, they were my best friends and you know when you've played Marbles and you

18:54 And you will actually fight with each other and

18:57 You know what, that's the best part of your life. I think you know when you're at seven or eight years old and you're here with a bunch of friends that you have a good time with and you're inventing soon. And then we we made a we had a chassis of a car that we put tires together and we you know

19:17 The tires wasn't you know, they were all tired. So with that dude in flight, so he was a put wood inside the tires to make the tires world and a lot of imagination a lot of used to have a Chipeta fights caps from those soft drinks. And if you stretch a rubber band out of an old bicycle tire and you stretches and you put the Chipeta on the on the gun you make yourself a gun.

19:53 Anna

19:55 It sounds like it hurts. It hurts skin about the Lord is but there was so much fun. And we used to you know, we used to modify that gun so they can instead of being a single shot rifle. It was at 3 chapitre rifle in our end and one guy came up with a machine gun making Chipeta machine guns in and my father used to have the soul Army jacket. That was when I was like the bullet proof vest for you to put that thing in there and and become the ramble the day in and jumped it is that I wouldn't you know that technically we throw ammunition each other.

20:56 But we had we had it was clean, but it was now they probably put all kinds of restrictions and gargoyles and things when your eyes but in those days.

21:08 Are you went out at these things? And we actually went to that to the store is on the other bars and pick up the check because of the of the soda machines and you know, they were

21:25 They were used to save them like they were goals because that was around munition, you know.

21:38 How are used to make slingshots out of out of leather shoes?

21:51 Work until you lie lights

21:57 It's a different world Lena. Daddy. We had a lot of fun. We are free Lisa run around like maniacs in the bushes and we had our own you used to make me wait a second meeting with offer you made us a clubhouse and the back of the house and and and we used to ride bicycles and do maybe not repeat the word. Remember you made that big tire for us a big tire swing and he said he used to push us and asked us if we wanted hurricane level 1 strength of a level 5 strength pushes. So we had a really maybe we were in Cuba with me. We had a really really good childhood and I think that you did that for us.

22:42 I think chocolate is it's fun.

22:50 You know what? I restrict too many things, you know.

22:55 Daddy, we know we knew we were different like we went to that the school Miami Shores on st. Rose and I knew that we were not American if nobody else live with their grandparents house and nobody else spoke Spanish and no one ate the food that we did and I had an accent and I didn't know it until you know growing up was really weird for me because everybody was always making fun of me in my new Shores. And so when I go home, it's when I would feel comfortable without the school I felt weird.

23:37 That is I never ignored you that you felt weird weird, and I didn't know why I felt weird ice knew that I wasn't the same but I was hoping weird like marginalized because this is different from being weird cuz you choose to be follow your soul or whatever, but you can always get away with murder if you're back in my life.

24:10 I might still.

24:14 You better work. Now when people call me for advice or noon generators and electrical apparatus. I usually try to do the unconventional like I tried to

24:26 Teaching using some examples that will make them laugh and I V bring a little humor into the into the equation people.

24:36 People seem to learn a lot better attention to you and what you're trying to explain.

24:43 It's very hard to teach a person something that they don't know nothing about. Where do you start and

24:52 It's so you can you can always start with something very telling their familiar with and then go from there.

25:01 So you don't think that is what I've always thought that just because the fact that you used to go back and forth and because everybody in your family refuse to play by the rules and that you still choose a play by the way that that that's what makes you creative and that's what makes you good at what you do and that's why people call you from all over the world just to ask you how to solve problems and that's maybe why you've been able to be

25:30 Even happy when connecting to your sad sometimes at the same time.

25:42 That your inability to check a box on a demographic that says she has been your biggest gift.

25:55 Why am I so need you?

26:01 How can you paint on?

26:06 How can you put a classification on you? It's doesn't make sense.

26:14 Do you know where if we go back five or six Generations were there was a

26:25 There was a Jew running out of France going into Curacao and he was one of our ancestors from Curtis out. And there was a pregnant Portuguese Girl by a by a German guy that when she was a maid and a Portuguese girl that wasn't made in Germany. They got pregnant by a German and a tube and had to run back to Portugal to Heaven unless a legitimate child, you know, 200 years ago.

26:56 All these things

26:59 We have kept all these memories in our family.

27:03 And the good memories and the bad memories and

27:12 And it makes us what we are just makes you look like you are.

27:17 And it's pretty hard to classify you.

27:22 With with a with a stamp that

27:26 Doesn't make sense. I don't think it makes sense for anybody because we are going to answer the sum of so many incredible parts.

27:35 That the

27:37 You know, I don't I don't see it. I don't do it on purpose. I guess really have a hard time to find out about who you are. What memory would you want me to choose for you?

27:56 What will be the story about you?

28:06 That's a hard one. That's really is a heart.

28:14 Basically, I didn't do any harm to people you know, that it I managed to live on this Earth.

28:22 For a while and that didn't consciously did harm to anybody and I tried to get along with people and make a living.

28:33 And I take them sad times in the good times and straighten, you know having a good laugh about it, basically because if you look at the life, it's just it's really comedy. How about if I said you were a pilot and you were an adventure and you are sailor and a great dad.

28:58 Well, I was a pilot because I was afraid of Mike and I are flying so I took flying lessons and we came up pilot and I always loved sailing and I always heard that some of my answers are the Caribbean pirates pirates. So I need to find out how they felt like when they were.

29:25 Pillow up there being Pirates, so

29:31 I always thought maybe they did it. It will be a little bit in my blood and I will learn how to do it and

29:38 So

29:41 Adventure adventure. I had a lot of Adventures but Mason basically it was a Adventures to conquer my own interferes.

29:52 You know, how you doing?

29:55 Are you always afraid of things and you always try to conquer them by you actually doing those things. So after you do at me, so well, that wasn't that bad. I kind of enjoyed it. So I'll tell you I think it's amazing.

30:12 I don't know what I think everybody's about everybody on earth goes through their own little life in their own.

30:26 I don't know. I kind of feel good. I feel good that you think about these things. You never really

30:33 Said anything about this to me.

30:35 You're asking you for money.

30:44 So you ask me anything?

30:53 The kind of answered almost anything that you kind of said a lot of things a little bit T ride.

31:11 Mission Towing

31:14 Guess who this young Desi?

31:17 Nofap on Yahoo! It wasn't never plant.

31:23 Just the way I am.

31:28 That's it.

31:31 Are these pretty good? It's been great.

31:36 Thanks Daddy for coming that's why I dragged you out here.