Cuban-American rapper Pitbull talked about the immigration crisis and what it means to him as a first-generation American on "The View" Thursday morning.
Armando Christian Pérez, who's better known by his stage name Pitbull, was born in the United States after his family immigrated from Cuba, where there history is rooted in a fight for freedom and survival.
"This country was built by immigrants," Pitbull said Thursday morning.
He went on to explain that the one thing his family instilled in him growing up in the U.S. was that the he was born an American, and that he should take full advantage of that privilege.
Pitbull's grandmother fought for Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba who was known for establishing the first communist state in the Western hemisphere, during the Cuban revolutionary war, Pitbull said. By the 1960s, "it became clear" to Pitbull's Grandma that "he wasn't the best for the country," Pitbull told The Guardian. She sent her daughters, including Pitbull's mother, to the U.S. in a mass exodus of unaccompanied minors known as Operation Peter Pan.
In 1980, Pitbull's father helped organize a mass emigration Cubans to Florida, known as the Mariel boatlift.
The 38 year-old musician told "The View's" hosts about the U.S.'s persistent immigration crisis, saying, "We are the United States of America, not the Divided States of America."
"We all bleed the same blood, we all breathe the same air, we all put our pants on one leg at a time," he added. "And when we start figuring that out, is when we can really understand that we're really not that different. We're really more similar than we believe."
Primarily raised by his mother growing up, Pitbull spoke about the struggles they faced together. He said that they relocated so much that he went through 25 school systems during his childhood.
"It was what we had to do, economically," Pitbull said. "But we survived, and I will say 'thank you' to my mom. I love you so much. But more than giving me love, she gave me survival skills."
Pitbull said that they always found "a way to make it happen" but that the school system "failed" him. "Living in all these neighborhoods and going through the system, I just feel like the system was built to fail you instead of push you through."
The internationally recognized artist admitted that there was one teacher who made an impact on his life, though. Her name is Hope Martinez, and she gave him advice that he says he's carried with him ever since.
"She told me, 'The biggest risk you take is not taking one,' and I always thought about that," he said. "It stays in my mind. So any time I feel a little iffy about something, I just think about her."
Thanks in part to the guidance his immigrant parents and Martinez gave him, Pitbull is not only a musician who has sold 80 million singles and topped the charts in 18 countries, he's opened 10 charter schools that have educated a total of 10,000 students.
"We graduated last year at 100%," he told "The View." "Yes, you heard me right. ... I'm very blessed, and it looks like we're on the same track this year."
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