Cuba Nostalgia: Memories of a Quinces celebration
A quince party in Cuba: a real fairytale to be recalled at this weekend’s Cuba Nostalgia
Like many teenage girls in Cuba, Lydia Hortensia de Castroverde yearned to be a quinceañera — to one day dress like a princess, enter a banquet hall full of family and friends on her father’s arm to dance a waltz, then blow out the candles on a spectacular cake. In effect, flying out as a butterfly from a cocoon. A beautiful human spring.
On Christmas’ Eve 1957, at age 14, she verbalized her dream to her parents: “ Mami, papi, I want a quince party.”
It was a difficult time to host a society event in Havana as political upheaval loomed and a revolution was brewing. A month earlier, Havana had been shaken by simultaneous bombings. A rebel leader named Fidel Castro had taken up arms against Fulgencio Batista’s government. No longer could people feel safe on the streets.
“ Papi at first refused to throw my party because he feared someone could bomb the event,” recalls Castroverde. “But Mami insisted, ‘our only daughter wants a quinceañera party.’?”
In the end, Castroverde got her wish.
This weekend at the annual Cuba Nostalgia festival in West Miami-Dade, the glorious quince Castroverde’s parents threw for her — and preserved in photographs in a large pink album and in 17 minutes of film — will be shown and showcased at the MiamiHerald/elNuevoHerald exhibit. Castroverde will also be there Saturday from 11 to 8 p.m. to tell how her mother, Hortensia, a well-known opera singer, pulled off a quince in tumultuous times.
It proved to be one of the last. large-scale quince parties in an elegant, pre-Castro Cuba.
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