Tell me a story

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most at family gatherings through the years are the stories. You can’t have a group of Cubans togtether in one place and not be transported somehow back to the island via some precious family telling or retelling of one of those many days that still lives vividly in memory.

It wont matter whether you’re in Miami or Michigan, at one point or another, before Thanksgiving dinner or some other holiday celebration, someone, one of your uncles or aunts or grandparents, will always chime in with a “Remember the time we were on our way to la playa de Guardalabaca and we had spent the entire night making bistecs empanizados and your uncle Pepe left them at the house? I was so hungry I almost ate dirt that day.”

My family has millions of them. I love to hear them, too. Escapades of youth in a more simple time, when Cuba was – as the old folks always say during these family gatherings – really Cuba.

For Cuba Nostalgia Im hoping to be able to post a few of these stories, not just mine, but from some of you Babalu readers as well. So, consider this a call for submissions. I’d love to hear some of your precious family stories. Share with us some of those anecdotes that you’ve heard oh so many times in your life. They dont need to be written perfectly or be too long. They can be posted anonimously if you prefer. I can edit them for clarity and structure if you wish.

The point is simply to share your story. To post it here at Babalu during the Cuba Nostalgia convention and have others live a little slice of your life. If you’ve been reading about the convention and wont be able to attend, here’s your chance to participate.

So go ahead and pick up the phone and call your Tia Fefa or your Tio Pepe or your favorite family storyteller and have them relive that one day where your sister pushed your cousin off a roof and he landed on your grandmother’s bed of roses with you over the phone.

Come on, don’t be shy, tell me us a story.

8 thoughts on “Tell me a story”

  1. Christmas 1966 in communist Cuba. About 10-months before we had obtained a little piglet. We put him in the out-house; which no one used since in 1958 my grandparents had finished rebuilding their house with all the modern equipment available at that time. We nicknamed him Sancho. We all knew the purpose of the piglet – it was meant to grow & get fat, so that we could eat him for Christmast – and not considered a ‘pet’ by all my cousins & me. As you may be aware, celebrating Christmas in Cuba is not allowed, having more than 2 adults gathered in a single place was also not allowed. Only counter-revolutionaries or ‘gusanos’ would celebrate Christmas. Therefore, if you celebrated Christmas and the government would find out about it – it’s jail for you.

    Finally Nochebuena arrived (that’s the 24th of December). Our whole family had started arriving to my grandparents house a few at a time, a few days before. We all lived in the same time, so the only purpose to get there a few days before was so that the CDD (block defense committee) would not notice that people were gathering in one place. There must have been 35+ by the time we all arrived. Anyway, it came time to kill the pig and it was around 4:30AM in the middle of the night. Everything was hush, hush. The adults kept telling us to be very, very quiet – you didn’t want the neighbors to hear. One of my uncles got a sledgehammer to knock the pick unconcious so that we could kill it. Unfortunately, Sancho was not fully knocked out… need I say more! It was horrible, you can imagine, the pig started squealing as only pigs can, running around the yard with all the men trying to catch it & make it QUIET! We now laugh at this story and remember it fondly. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. How funny it all seems now to remember that pig running around with everybody trying to cath it!

    I remember the fear. Fear that the neighbors would wake up and call the authorities. Fear that they would come and take us children away from our parents for getting together to celebrate Christmas. The USA is MY country now. Most of my memories of Cuba are like this one – they are not pleasant memories and it hurts to remember them / even when I’m laughing at them.

  2. Not a story but a question, since you mentioned Miami to Michigan & I think the only Cubans in Michigan are related to us, I’d like to hear if anyone out there is from Michigan & what part, please email with any info.

  3. Mami used to tell me about the hurricanes that would hit the island. She lived in Havana with her widowed mother and aunts. They would be terrified during the storm, but afterward the whole neighborhood would be a party. They’d make chocolate caliente and little sandwiches to share with each other as they cleaned up after the catastrophe. I always thought it sounded fun and exciting. Since I’m from the midwest, perhaps this is why tornados thrill me instead of terrify me!?

  4. Hi Nancy,
    I’m not from Michigan, actually Chicago but I spend a great deal of time in Michigan, the St. Joe’s area. I have a place there and we go all the time. It’s a beautifull State and as soon as I can, I will move there. Then there will be one more Cuban in Michigan.

    Quick story – Not set in Cuba but upon arriving here in the USA. My poor mother had a hell of a time trying to adjust to the midwest and USA in general. To this day she does not speak the language. One of the first things my parents did once here was to get me into school right away. My mom had to get used to the routine of making me a lunch and get me going in the morning. The first day she made my lunch, my aunt told her to help herself in the fridge to the ham and cheese.
    Unfortunately my mom had not had any prior experience with individually wrapped american cheese. You can imagine what happened at lunch time at school. One bite of that sandwich here comes the cheese still wrapped in the plastic along with everyone laughing at me. Needless to say this was not the only embarrassing and confusing experience growing up here.

    Oscar

  5. MY MOST VIVID MEMORY OF OUR ARRIVAL IN THE US BACK IN 1968. IT WAS OCTOBER, WE WERE LIVING IN THE PROJECT HOUSING, NO FURNITURE, NO FOOD, JUST A FEW CHAIRS AND A TABLE THE CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES BROUGHT US ALONG WITH PLASTIC CURTAINS TO COVER THE WINDOWS, AT THAT TIME WE WERE STILL AFRAID OF OUR OWN SHADOWS, DUE TO ALL THE PARANOIA OF LIVING IN COMMUNIST CUBA WITH THE COMITE DE DEFENSA NEXT DOOR TO US…
    IT WAS HOLLOWEEN, WE KNEW NO ONE!! CUBANS HEARD OF HOLLOWEEN?
    WE HEARD A KNOCK ON THE DOOR…MY MOTHER ANSWERED WHILE THE REST OF US STAYED IN THE KITCHEN….WE HEARD MOM SCREAMED AND CLOSE THE DOOR SHUT!! SHE CAME BACK IN THE KITCHEN SCREAMING! OH GOD!! WE WERE BEING SINGLED OUT!!
    MIDGETS WITH BIG PILLOW CASES AND BLOOD RUNNING DOWN THEIR FACES ARE COMING TO KILL US! A FEW MINUTES PASSED…STILL CONFUSED AND FEARFUL..ONCE
    AGAIN, WE HEARD A KNOCK ON THE DOOR…THIS TIME MY FATHER OPENS THE DOOR WITH A KITCHEN KNIFE IN HIS HAND…HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE KIDS SAID (TRICK OR TREAT!!) ALL WE HEARD PAPI SAY WAS..HIJOS DE PUTA….###!!!%%&&&***** LOS MATO!!THE TRICK OR TREATERS RAN FOR THEIR LIVES!!
    WE WERE NOW CONVINCED THIS NIGHT WAS OUR LAST DAY OF FREEDOM FOUND IN THE US……NEXT KNOCK ON THE THE DOOR WAS THE POLICE TO ARREST MY PARENTS WHILE WE RAN FOR OUR LIVES ALL OVER THE PROJECTS~~

  6. Alimari,
    Hurricane parties were great in Cuba, somehow, when I used to live in Miami the tradition had seemed to grow strong with the recent arrives from Cuba.
    But a good hurricane party is always a thing to remember, as is the hot chocolate that one used to drink during a hurricane.

  7. This comes courtesy my late uncle-by-marriage, Fernando Prego, who was a great raconteur and storyteller, and enjoyed many adventures and mis-adventures, thankfully mostly in pre-cagastro times. I’ll title it “The Miliciano and the Corvair.”

    3 months before we left Cuba, sometime in August 1960, my father received a call from a salesman at the recently “nationalized” Ambar Motors auto dealership in Havana. Dad had been looking for a 2nd car so mom could drive it after she got her driver’s license. “There are a few cars left authorized for sale – are you interested in a Corvair,? my father was asked. He was, and he bought it, knowing no more cars were going to be imported.

    When we left the island, the automobiles were left in the care of my uncle Prego. Early in ’61, when tensions in Cuba were increasing daily, due to the growing resistance and the rumors about “the invasion,” uncle was driving the Corvair somewhere in Havana, when he was stopped at one of many roadblocks. He was imperiously, and with “revolutionary rudeness,” ordered out of the car by one of several militiamen manning the roadblock. “We are searching for weapons and counter-revolutionary contraband,” he was informed.

    The miliciano ordered uncle to “open the trunk of the car.” Understand that, the Corvair, which was General Motors answer to the VW Beetle, had its engine mounted in the rear. When uncle went to the trunk, in front of the car, the miliciano became upset and screamed: “I said open the TRUNK!” Uncle said nothing. He simply wheeled about, and opened the rear “trunk” lid, amused to see the miliciano’s stupefied look of disbelief and bulging eyeballs as he stared at – an engine.

    The “Revolutionary Defender” then – in a more polite tone – proceeded to ask uncle to open the front lid. This was done, and the inspection completed. No weapons or contraband were found and uncle was on his way again, no doubt holding in his intense desire to let out one of his trademark loud guffaws at the ludicrousness of the whole incident.

    Makes me wonder how the cagastros have managed to stay in power this long, being that evidently many of their followers didn’t know their front end from their rear end…

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