MIAMI — In Richard Blanco’s Miami, memories linger outside coffee windows and in Cuban grocery store aisles.
Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural poet grew up here, gathering experiences and stories as the son of Cuban exiles that would lay the foundation for his written work and inspire his new memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos.”
Since becoming both the first gay and Hispanic inaugural poet almost two years ago, Blanco has traveled the U.S., giving readings, writing poems and essays, and releasing two non-fiction books.
He has become a literary spokesman of sorts, advocating for a more inclusive America and revealing his own struggles to come to terms with his identity as a gay man. He remains based in Maine, but like his parents before him who dreamed of Cuba, he dreams of another place.
He dreams of Miami.
“One of the things that fascinates me is how physical landscapes are intertwined with emotional landscapes,” he said. “Everything that happens in our lives happens in a place and Miami is certainly that place since I was 3 years old.”
“The Prince of Los Cocuyos” takes readers to Miami of the 1970s and ’80s, where Blanco’s family was one of tens of thousands building new lives after fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution.
Loud and nostalgic, Blanco cringed at his parents’ salsa music and Thanksgiving carne puerco – roast pork. He wanted to be American – New Wave music, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving turkey.
In a series of loosely intertwined stories, Blanco describes a childhood marked by loss, humor and hints of an exotic land called America. In “Losing the Farm,” he recounts his grandfather’s attempt to recreate the chicken coop he had in Cuba in the family’s suburban Westchester (or “Guescheste” as it is pronounced by many Cubans) backyard, much to the chagrin of Miami’s code enforcement police.