Cuban Stuff

This section is vital to understand who I am and where I came from because I believe we are, not just our actions, but also our people and WHERE we come from (even when we are no longer there). A strong sense of place allows for a strong sense of self. This is a truth every exile must come to terms with, in an effort to heal the lasting void a lack of place leaves in the soul.

IMAGES THAT AWAKEN THE COMPLEX FEELINGS OF A LOST CHILDHOOD…

Whenever I think of my early years, I can’t avoid the vivid images that creep up from the nooks and crannies of my memory. The dusty, forgotten places that forever hold these flashes, rather than entire experiences; fragments of what was. A chair sheltering my godfather’s sleeping cat, a warm breeze carrying with it the scent of wet earth after the rain, the smell of grandma grinding cinnamon in the kitchen for her rice pudding recipe. These bits and pieces of my childhood is all that’s left now.

LASTING MEMORIES…

Cuba’s grand, dilapidated, courtyards welcome family and friends into every home. They are etched in my memory as they sat in contrast with their vibrant flora (its brilliant hues; fuchsias, purples, reds and verdant limes and the deep hunter-greens of the lush tropical leaves and palm fronds). A kaleidoscope of colors set again their dirty gray paint peeling off the timeworn stucco. A contradiction, as the old is surrounded by the eternal beauty of nature.

SATURDAY DESAYUNO & THEN A WALK ALONG EL PASEO DEL PRADO…

I will never forget Saturdays in Havana with my grandmother. It was the day of the week I looked forward to the most. Even as a tiny, skinny pre-kindergartener, I would spend my days at “circle” (pre-k) pretend-playing with peers and complying with the collaborative demands of my teachers. Yet, every second was spent in anticipation – waiting for that precious Saturday morning when my abuelita’s breakfast would wake me; the smell of the pork tamale warming in the oven, the sizzling of the buttery tostada (Cuban bread and butter flattened on a pan) and the punch of the espresso brewing in her little battered Cuban percolator that she would pour into my hot cup of steamed milk, for my morning cafecito.

After breakfast we would stroll past the park on our way to the bus stop. The No. 40 would take us up the highway road, through the underwater tunnels that connected Havana del Este with Old Havana. Once there, we’d get off at the stop facing the old fort, at the José Martí station, to begin our long forty-five minute walk along El Prado; the busiest and largest city park in all of Havana. Saturdays was chaotic; a beautiful chaos of loud domino games and politics forming atop its stone tables and benches along the promenade, shoppers carrying their bags overflowing with fresh fruits, vegetables and freshly-baked Cuban bread. Kids skid past in their makeshift, homemade skateboards, who with their noise and speeds anger the vendors who have carefully set out their many wares to sell to the tourist. There were also the performers, musicians playing the bongos for couples that dropped what they were doing to dance some salsa during their park walk and everyone else looking on or taking in the joy of Saturdays on our Caribbean island home in one of the most wonderfully Cuban spots in the whole country.