Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Cuba a Bittersweet Tale - Part I
Several years ago I took a trip to Cuba. I've wanted to write about it ever since so I'm going to chronicle the story here as it fits into what makes life sweet and savory. This experience was truly the trip of my lifetime. To start this series off I must give the back story.
My father is Cuban. What I knew about my father before this trip was limited. He came to the US when he was 14 years old. He lived first in Miami then in a "home" in Albuquerque, NM run by Catholic priests. My maternal grandmother was a very big Catholic and supported the church. She is a hospitable woman who always had the "Cuban boys" over. This is how my parents met. The group of boys that came over for meals all had left Cuba during the Revolution led by Castro and Che who ultimately ousted the dictator Baptiste from the government this Revolution caused many families to flee the island (that's enough history on that subject). These boys left everything, home and family to live a better life in the US. Many of their parents did eventually make it to the States. My father's parents never did. When I was very young I heard few stories about Cuba from my dad, I do remember him singing in Spanish to me, though I have no idea what the words meant. I do not speak Spanish and understand a little, as is the situation with many children of Spanish speaking parents who came to the states in the 60's.
For many years growing up my mom would say "write your grandparents in Cuba, send them a school picture." I felt that the language barrier was too much and only recall maybe sending one or two letters my entire life. As I grew older I had this overwhelming desire to meet my grandparents and see my roots. I was raised an only child, though I have half-siblings, so I have that tendency to want to please and fix everyone. I wanted to fix my father's sadness about leaving his home and family. So for years I kept pressing the issue, "lets go to Cuba." My mom was nervous, my dad was non-committal. I did research on how to get there as I heard American's were still making their way to the island.
Finally, with overwhelming sadness my Cuban grandmother passed away in December. This was an utter devastation to my father. He may have mistakenly thought that it would be his parent's dying wish to see him so this may have been one of many reasons why he wouldn't commit to going. We now had an urgency to get him to Cuba to see his father and brother before it was too late. After many months of getting our paperwork in order (finding and renewing green cards, changing names on passports and obtaining a visa to visit Cuba) we finally embarked on this trip of a lifetime. Nearly 40 years from the day my dad left his home.