Like Florencia, Lydia was proud of being Cuban. In her happy moments she basked in the kind of serenity that comes from knowing, in no uncertain terms, who and what you are - the serenity of belonging without a doubt to something greater than yourself - like the most devout priests, die-hard military men, and the very rich. And certain immigrants - those Irish whose clothes somehow smell like the mists of Dingle Bay, or those Sicilians on Mott Street who speak an Italian that confounds the university professors, the Jewish folk of Hasidic faith who would never, in their lifetimes, read a single English-language newspaper. Or those Ukranians of the Lower East Side who still trundled the streets in peasant garb, in babushkas and heavy skirts in the summertime, as if walking up a hill in the Caucasus. Or those Chinese restaurateurs whose establishments one found at the end of a twisting passageway - as twisting as any search for identity - and down stairways, and into yet more passageways until one passed through beaded curtains into low-ceilinged rooms with dark scarlet walls, where the steam smelled like bamboo and one would not hear a single word of English spoken - like those Chinese, and those others who precisely knew just who and how and what they were, even if life wasn't always easy - that kind of serenity.
Empress of the Splendid Season