How Do You Say Blueberry in Spanish?

By Antonio Sacre


Story Summary:

 Antonio explores the challenges and joys of trying to raise a bilingual child. As anxious new parents, Antonio and his wife ask, “Are two languages better than one?” and find humor along the way.  (more…)

Mr. D’s Class

By Antonio Sacre

Story Summary:

 Thirty teenagers from twenty countries, one Jewish teacher, and one Cuban-Irish-American storyteller (story artist, Antonio Sacre) set out to publish a book of writing in one of the poorest and most challenging high schools in Los Angeles. Will fear and distrust stop the project before it begins, or will they stand together?  (more…)


by Storyteller Antonio Sacre


Story Summary:

 As a Cuban and Irish American child, Antonio deals with being “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough”. By trial and error and with the support of his family, Antonio reclaims all of his ethnic heritage and his Spanish language.

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: Looking-for-Papito

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think Antonio is white or brown? What does he think he is?
  2. What could Antonio have done when he was teased about speaking Spanish? Have you ever hidden parts of your cultural background to “fit in”?
  3. Does each group who comes to this country eventually lose its culture? What is gained and what is lost from assimilation?


  •  How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia Alvarez
  • America Is Her Name by Luis J. Rodriquez 


  • Crossing Cultures
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Languages
  • Latino American/Latinos
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination

Full Transcript:

Hi, my name is Antonio Sacre and this is an excerpt from a longer story called Looking for Papito. Spanish …When my father left Cuba he didn’t speak any English at all … and when he came to the United States he met a woman who didn’t speak any Spanish at all … and the two got married. And they had me. That meant I grew up speaking Spanish with my father and English with my mother.

Now I was born it was just me — and life was perfect and on my very first birthday my mom and dad gave me twin baby brothers. My mom was up to her ears. My dad said, “Three boys in one year that’s the man that I am you know!”

We were a handful for my parents of course, and so my dad did what very many other Cuban men would do in the same situation he called his mother. Spanish. My Cuban grandmother came to live with us. We were growing up in Delaware at that time. And so, in my house our first language — my two brothers and I — was Spanish. So, we

spoke Spanish with my dad, Spanish with my grandmother and of course we learnt English from my mom and we all learnt each other’s languages.

Now, it’s typical in Cuban families for the first-born male to have the nickname – Papito … and I was given that nickname by my grandmother Papito. It means little man … little boy. But in my family, it reminded her of my grandfather who died right after they came from Cuba and so it was honor to have his name. And when we got out of diapers my grandmother moved back to little Havana in Miami Florida.


Now my first day of kindergarten I was five years old. I was so excited to go to school to get out of the house with those two other boys and my mom was sad and my dad was happy — “my boy was going to school you know”.

I get to this school and I see all those kids and I am nervous and excited and I looked at them and I spoke in my first language I said … Spanish … And the kids looked at me and said — what? — Spanish … And my teacher … she was very sweet … and she said, “Honey nobody speaks Spanish here we only speak English”.

“Oh, that’s OK I speak English too.”

“Hi everyone, my name is Papito.” And one boy in the back said “Pa-Papido sounds like Dorido!” “No, no its Papito” “No, no its Dorido!”

Now he is just a five year old having fun with the nickname that he never heard before, but obviously I didn’t like it so much. I went home and spoke to my dad. Now if you don’t speak Spanish don’t worry I will translate what I said but this is what I said … Spanish … and my dad said … Spanish… I told my dad I didn’t want the Cuban nickname that my grandmother gave me I didn’t care it was part of the family I wanted to be called a more American sounding name I wanted to be called Tony. My dad said okay.

A couple of days after he dropped me off at school and he said “Adios Papit..aa, Tony adios” “OK Papa, Adios”

And one of those kids is in the playground … he was maybe third or fourth grader — he looked like a giant … he came up to me and he said, “What was that language you were speaking?” “Spanish.” “Sounds stupid.” “Are you stupid?”

I didn’t know what to say and I went home I did what I lot of other kids do from immigrant families I said … Spanish … I never want to speak Spanish again” … Spanish … “No from now on — only English.” And when my father spoke to me in Spanish I answered back to him in English. And after a while he spoke to me in Spanish. I pretended like I didn’t understand until he only spoke to me in English and little by little my first language was slipping away.

And when I turned eight my parents got divorced… there is a long story behind that part of … with their cultural background and part of the way it just the way it worked. And so, my dad moved out and I didn’t have anyone to speak Spanish with anymore.

But it didn’t matter to me everyone at school spoke English. Everything on TV was in English. Movies were in English. My grandmother was in Miami and maybe I’d see a couple of times a year maximum. And the older I got by the time I got into the high school it didn’t matter to me that I didn’t know any Spanish.

Now in my first day of history class…American history in high school … I will never forget the teacher was reading roll call. He said, “Antonio Bernardo Sacre who’s that?” “Ah…that’s me but…my name is Tony” “What kind of a name is this??” “Well its Cuban” and the whole class turned and looked at me and I said “I am not Cuban. I am American. I was born here. My father, he’s Cuban” he said, “Oh yeah…where is your mother from?” “Well she is an Irish American” what kind of a combination is that?” and the whole class laughed – he was just, you know being funny. It was okay.

Now, at lunch there was a kid who came up to me and said “You are a Cuban and Irish huh? I guess that it makes you a spic – mick – or maybe a “mick-spic”. And soon in my school that’s the nickname that I got even though I had long ago stopped speaking Spanish, even though I fell and looked as white looking as everyone in that high school, that’s what I became known as — I was the “other” in my high school.

Now, what was happening at the time was there is the movie “Scarface” had come out and there is the stereotype that all Cubans were drug dealers and bad and was just this odd thing was happening.

Lucky for me my grandmother wanted to see me this summer after my first year of high school. And my brother was there that whole summer and when I got in to her house (in Miami) and she saw me she threw her arms around me with a beautiful hug. I was so happy to see her and she started speaking and I couldn’t understand her.

And she said … Spanish … she’s screaming at me yelling at me and my brother said “What’s the matter? You can’t speak … you gotta talk Spanish with your grandmother.” The whole family is in a big consternation yelling at me and my grandmother said …Spanish … “You need to learn how to speak Spanish.” So every day she would sit me down and drill words into me tell me stories about my dad.

And every night … not every night… but every now and then my brother and I would go out to these big Cuban dance parties. He knew the salsa and dances. He could dance with all these girls I would be dancing by myself. Whenever we walked down the street the old Cuban men would say to my brother…. Spanish … “You speak Spanish perfect what’s the matter with your brother? He needs to learn Spanish you know!”

And soon in that little Havana neighborhood in my family I was called … “El gringo de la Familia‟ …the Gringo of the family…they were calling me names and my family — the gringo of the family. And so it was odd for me because I don’t fit in with my family. I don’t fit in my high school. I didn’t know what was going on you know and by the end of the summer.

I was jealous of my brother because his Spanish is perfect he looks more Cuban if there’s such a thing. I couldn’t understand my uncles when they are telling jokes with my grandmother, and I said in my halting Spanish “I don’t feel very Cuban in this family” and she said, “You are never gonna be fully Cuban or American” she said “You are Cuban American.” And she said you have to speak Spanish with me because I am too old to learn English and you have to speak English in this country.

And at that point I realized that it was worse to be called gringo in my family than to be called names in the school I didn’t really care about. And so I tried the best I could that summer to accept the gain as much of that language as I could. And sat with my grandmother while she told stories of the family she told me jokes — some silly, some a little racy, some beautiful little stories.

Some of the jokes became basis of the stories that I tell now all these years later. One is just a little joke — a “barking mouse”. There is a cat who chases a family of mice and the mother barks at the cat and the cat runs away and she says, “You see kids it pays to speak another language.”

And I think about my grandmother every time I think about that little silly beautiful message about the importance of speaking another language.

And I went back to my school proud to be the school’s only Cuban Irish American. There’s one of my friends who calls me – a “Leprachano”. And so now I embrace both parts of it. And I still am not fully Cuban in little Havana — and I am still not fully whatever American means or … whatever the words you would say… but I am somewhere in between the both. And I know now, in all my travels around the country, there are many, many other people just like me and we have lots to learn from both sides. And that is just the part I wanted to do.

Faster Than Sooner

by Storyteller Antonio Sacre


Story Summary:

 While studying to become an actor, Sacre happened into storytelling through a class at Northwestern University. Because he found that he was often excluded from acting jobs because he was seen as either “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough,” he took on storytelling performances to pay the bills. He started to understand the power of his bilingual storytelling and remembers an encounter with a grade school bully where learning the other boy’s story made all the difference.  (more…)

Remembering and Celebrating Cuba

By Storyteller Antonio Sacre

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here:  Remembering and Celebrating Cuba

Discussion Questions:



  •  Latino/Hispanic American

Full Transcript:

When I was younger I would ask my Cuban father what it was like in Cuba. What was it like there? Why did he leave? What does he miss about it? And every question I had about Cuba was met by silence.

And my Father’s family- huge celebrations in Miami around the table with food piled high. I would listen to them tell stories about each other and tell stories about Miami and how they built it from the swamp and what it was like when I was a baby. And every now and then I would pull one of my uncles or aunts to the side and try to ask them about Cuba and any question- any query about Cuba was met with silence. I soon learned to know that any question would bring the conversation, the laughter to a halt. So I stopped asking about Cuba- at all.

When I got older I became a storyteller. I began to tell stories in English and in Spanish. And I mostly worked with a lot of people from Mexico, so I began to learn everything I could about Mexico. And this took me down to Mexico where I traveled all through Mexico. And I ended up one time at the Yucatan right at a travel agency where there were flights to Cuba- $79. And I realized that I’d spent all this time learning about the land and culture and food in Mexico, but I’d done none of that in Cuba where my father’s family was from.

Here it was, a bilingual storyteller with a wealth of information about Mexico but nothing about Cuba. So I got one of those phone cards and I called my dad from a payphone on the street in front of that travel agency. “Yo Puerto era Kuba I viie” I told my dad I wanted to go to Cuba, I wanted to go to the places where he lived and worked. The beaches at Cojimar, where he studied and went to school. Where he played baseball. And he said “Mijo, you’re a man and your profession is storytelling. If you want to go to Cuba you can do it. It’s my dream is to take you to Cuba someday by myself.” never heard that my dad had that dream for me and I almost cried there in the corner. He said “Well when we can go mijo, we can’t go until Castro is gone. You know I never want to go back there with him and all he did, you know” but I remember my grandmother telling me that Castro would outlive everybody and now his brother’s in power and who knows when that is going to end. For my dad Raul and Fidel are the same and so I don’t know when I’ll ever go with my dad. Maybe someday. Maybe.

A few months ago, I got called by National Public Radio to write a story about celebrations tied to the land and Latino cultures and they specifically wanted a Cuban perspective. And on the phone as I was talking with them I said, “Well actually you know I’ve got a really great lot of stories about Mexico-”

“No no no, we already have Mexico covered. We’d love to get Cuba.”

And I sort of stammered and hemmed and hawed and said “Well you know…”

They said, “Well could you try?”

I said, “I could ask my dad.”

They said, “That’s great- perfect. We’ll talk to you soon.”

I didn’t tell them that every attempt to ask about Cuba from my dad in all the years prior amounted to silence so I called my dad and told him that it was for my work and we made an appointment to talk about it. My dad’s a very busy man and so at 9am on Tuesday morning a week later, I called my dad. He said “Demon, tell me what do you want to know?”

I said “Pa- tell me about the celebrations tied to the land in Cuba.” And he thought for a second and he said, “Oh yeah Mijo, there’s the cutting down of the sugar cane. You know that all the men would come and have a great big festival.” I couldn’t believe it. A celebration tied to the land in Cuba. I said “Pa! Did you ever go to one?”

“No Mijo, that was for the campesinos. I was a city boy and I lived in Havana, you know?”

“Was there anything else?”

“No Mijo, a lot of those things are tied to the Indians in Cuba, you know? But the Spaniards killed all of them, you know? So they couldn’t survive, you know? Not like in Mexico and South America where they could hide in the mountains, you know? In Cuba all the Indians were gone, you know”

And we had this uncomfortable silence. I know my dad wanted to help me and I wanted to hear something, but we didn’t have anything and so we’re about ready to hang up. It seemed until he said. “Mijo, wait a minute you know we had the big religious festivals, you know? We had the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You know? We had the San Juan de los Lagos. We had a La Noche Buena.”

“Papa slow down! What are you saying?”

“Mijo- sometimes we would have the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You know there’s a great procession that leaves the church- you know- and it would be the whole church- you know? The men would be carrying the statue of the Virgin; four strong men carrying this huge statue. You know? Walking through the streets- you know? And I was too small, so I would be on the porch and with a Virgin Mary walking along with these four men carrying it and my mother- tu Abuela, would put her hand on my head and say the prayers- you know? As the Virgin walked by.”

And I could hear that laughter in his voice and I knew the crinkle in his eye when he smiled, I touched my eyes- it was the same crinkle that my dad had.

He said, “Mijo! Then, we had the summer celebrations of San Juan- eh, how you call him? Eh, John the Baptist, you know? And the fisherman who had fished for the pargo como si pero- a snapper. That’s not for the snapper fish we will go down to the beaches- the fishermen were there with their nets- you know? We’d have a great big party or a big bonfire, you know. We’d be praying for the fish to come and the fish came we went ‘Oooh!’ and if the fish didn’t come we’d still have a big party, you know? It’s just an excuse for a party, you know? But we loved it, you know?

Oh yeah! And the best festival was the La Noche Buena- Christmas Eve.”

I said, “Pa, what was the Christmas Eve festival like?”

“Ah Mijo! Your Uncle TT- no my uncle TT- your great-uncle TT.  He’s in Cuba. Anyway anyway. Uncle TT would raise the pig all year long, you know? And then, the women, your grandmother, your aunties and my primas. They would all make the adobo de marinade. You know- and we pour the marinade on the pig, you know and then it came to kill the pig. This was a big macho thing, you know the men’s would do it- you know? The kill the pig- the blood everywhere I know it sounds a little disgusting, but Mimi would say, your grandmother, would say that ‘You Americans don’t see the animals before you kill them. That’s why you have less respect for the land and the animals’. Anyway we’d have the pig, we cooked a pig, you know, there’d be a huge celebration- the pig on the table. You know, sometimes your uncle would take it – say  ‘Oh yeah how are you doing?’ you know? And we would have this huge toast and Aublea would take it and she’d say ‘I’d like to give a toast to all those who have died and all those who are alive. And we missed the ones that have died and we love the ones that are here and we are so happy that Jesus will be born this Christmas Eve and we’re so sad that he will die in Easter, and we are very happy that he will raise up afterwards and we are thankful for the laughter and thankful for the food.’ And we would pick mangoes from the trees and eat them right there on the table. And then the meal would be finished and it would be the best party of the year. We’d go to La Mesa del Gallo, the rooster midnight mass and the mass would go on for hours and afterwards, more dancing and celebrating and eating the leftovers and we’d sleep all through Christmas.”

And my dad stopped, and I said, “Pa, did you ever do those celebrations here in the United States?”

“Mijo no. That ended in Cuba, you know, you know, before Cuba, before Batista- it was a great party in Cuba. Then Batista’s government came and wrecked Cuba and then Castro came and promised different but then he wrecked Cuba even worse and we came here with nothing- so we didn’t have any money or language or ways to buy pigs, we barely had food and clothes, you know? We didn’t have the language, you know, so that I don’t end up in Cuba and I hate to be reminded of this, but I love you- I hope you do very well on the radio thing- whatever it is. You know? And if you need anything else, call me. Okay? Bye bye.”

And that moment came, and someday maybe my dad and I will go to Cuba, maybe with my young son. And maybe we’ll watch the fisherman pull the snappers in and have a big party. Maybe we’ll watch the huge Christmas Eve celebration. Maybe we’ll watch the Virgin Mary process through the streets of Havana near where my father used to live, and my father will put his hand on my young son’s head and bless him as the Virgin Mary goes by.




If Only You Were Mexican

By Antonio Sacre


Story Summary:

 A director tells Antonio that he would produce his play if only he was Mexican. This makes Antonio reflect on the importance of listening to stories outside our own ethnic groups. Antonio travels to Mexico and learns Mexican folktales to share with the community.  (more…)


By Storyteller Antonio Sacre


Story Summary:

Occasionally, Antonio brings his friends and family to Catholic mass, not always with the results he hoped for. However, in Los Angeles, he goes to church with Mexican-American families where he finds people who are deeply into the ritual and their passion for their religion makes him proud.  (more…)