Una fotografia – one picture – countless words.

The following was sent in by our friend Mike Pancier and I thought Id share it with you all.

Finca San Pedro July 1947 Cuba.jpg

Val, your essay on photographs the other day reminded me of some of the images that my family managed to smuggle out of Cuba. Much of my family’s history remained there and its whereabouts unknown. All possessions, memories, photographs, family heirlooms, gone for the ages. Never seen again by any of my family members, nearly all of which left in the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The few that remained died there.

This is an image that I’ve been attempting to restore using Photoshop. It is not a great image. But an image of my family’s farm, known as la Finca San Pedro. It was my family’s farm in the Oriente Province near the town of Palm Soriano where my mother and grandparents settled from the 20’s through the early sixties when they began to flee the tyranny brought about them.

This farm was in the family for generations. It was not a ranch; just a small farm where the Rio Cauto ran through. It was a place where the entire family would gather especially in summers. Where all the brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins; the entire family would converge.

Again, it was a small farm, but it was a utopia for the family; for my young mother and her siblings who grew up and spend countless days there riding horses, swimming in the river, and enjoying the natural beauty of a tropical island; the rural life far away from the hustle and bustle of the City.

My family were not wealthy barons. Just common folks who lived and enjoyed their hard work and the fruits which the farm would bear to them.

As Castro and his thugs took over the Island and lied to its inhabitants, and the world, that democracy would be restored, his intent was far from the truth. He confiscated everything on behalf of Stalinist state he vowed to create. Not just the family farm, but the pride and joy of a population. The joix de vivre of a generation. He sucked the life out of someone like my grandfather who as an orphan at an early age, raised by an older sister, became a man of modest wealth by selling shoes; by hard work. Everything he worked at his old was taken away by a bearded tyrant.

The farm was confiscated in the name of the government and converted to residences for loyal party members. The whole family scattered throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Spain, Mexico. That one place of convergence for the entire family was gone and alas so was the family. Which with the deaths of the patriarchs and matriarchs, grandfathers and grandmothers, and the assimilation into a new society where everyone is too busy to enjoy the wonders around them, we deal with our own lives and if lucky we see some of the family members on certain holidays, weddings, or sadly, primarily at funerals. It has come to a sad reality that it is at funerals that we’ve seen our cousins grown. Our surviving aunts and uncles aged. Our cousins’ kids now teenagers, or in college now, when the last time you saw them, they were in grade school. Many of us have assimilated and will continue to do so until one day our ties to a different world and way of life would be but a mere memory in a few generations.

My late grandmother always used to reminisce about this farm. Her stories to a young child made quite an impression on me. In my innocence, I would always ask her to take me there, not understanding why we could not go. She would tell me when Fidel died, we could see the farm. My departed grandmother, was never able to return. And alas, I myself do not know if I will ever make it there. For what I would see there would probably destroy those images I savored as a child.

In sum, the bearded one, destroyed not just a country, but a people, a way of life. He tainted everything that is good in the people of Caribbean island. He has made cynics of us; pessimists and has filled people with hatred towards their fellow countrymen. How people fail to recognize the evil this man has wrought on this continent and on a people is beside me.

As George Harrison once wrote,

“But all I’ve got is a photograph, And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.”

The farm of 1947 is not coming back and all I have is this photo and my memories.

Note to Mike: The photograph of my Tia Amanda’s eyes that blesses this blog was taken at El Rio Cauto. My family is from Oriente as well.

7 thoughts on “Una fotografia – one picture – countless words.”

  1. Thank you for sharing this image. It is beautiful. What you say in this post captures the real tragedy of Cuba – the destruction of its families, its social environment, in short, the destruction of the ties that bind us in love and friendship. The loon-trolls of the left never get it – they think it is all about material possessions and recovering them. They’re so far off the compass, they have no bearings, no direction. That is why they are so morally and socially clueless. That is why they worship kagaSStro.

  2. A beautiful photograph. I hope I didn’t miss them, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the photographs the Czech model (I’m sorry I can’t remember her name) took secrectly and smuggled out of Cuba. BTW– “kagaSStro” is hilarious. I’ve also seen “Catastro,” which is funny, until the real extent of the catastrophe he has authored hits you.

  3. This was not my photo Julio. It was taken in 1947. I am a nature photographer though and would love to one day shoot in a free Cuba, the Sierra Maestra and the Fields my mother grew up in as well as the native wildlife. One day soon I pray.

  4. My godfather, Patricio Ponce de Leon (I was named after him), also had a farm in Santa Maria del Mar. Your post reminds me of the happy times I spent there as a child flying papalotes, sliding down the hills in yaguas after a rain, and having a giant family-wide fight with the blossoms from a framboyan tree. This happy place was also confiscated by the government. But I will never forget it, and so it survives in a specially vivid fashion, as your farm does, in the recesses of our memories. My godfather will be 91 this year, and lives in Miami. He is still as sharp as a tack. The castro regime may have taken physical property, but I disagree that the spirit of our people will ever be diminished. I will be back…you will be back…we will be back. I look FORWARD to that future, with the help of my past.

  5. Mike,
    I knew the photo in question was not taken by you, unless you happen to bee in 70s or 80s now.
    A lot of folks who know me nowadays, constantly ask whether I’d be interested in going to take photos in Cuba. My unchanging answer: Yes, I would, but I won’t do so until there is a change in “management” there.
    I’m in my late 50s now (in fact, I was born in 1947, the very year your photograph was taken), and I’m relatively hopeful that I will be able to return and photograph some of the old haunts in Cuba. I was born in Guines, Havana Province, and left in 1962, shortly after I had turned 15 years old.
    Unfortunately, my family is one of the uncounted ones that “lost” nearly all the family photos in the process of leaving for exile. My father was an amateur lensman (he owned one of those 1940s “folding” Kodak cameras, with the convex/concave mirrors where everything appeared backwards). He used to make a visual record of all our family activities, and when the time came for him to leave the island, he chose to leave the very thick family album (and probably all the negatives) with an uncle who had a brood of nine children.
    It didn’t take long for some of the kids to start removing the photos from the album and “playing” with them, so most of the images got lost or destroyed, and no one seems to know what may have happened to all those negatives.
    About 20 years ago, another uncle came to the U.S. on a 3-month visit from Cuba, and he brought with him about 100 of the photos that were left, of which I ended up receiving about 30. And that’s all there is, visually speaking, left from my childhood. I treasure them and keep them in a special album.
    My own children get a big kick out of seeing what their father looked like just a few months after birth, when he was a toddler, when he dressed up for carnival at four years of age, when he made his first communion, when he was ready to march in a school parade, etc.
    But right now, it looks like neither my children nor anyone else, including me, will ever see a photograph of our house, our gardens, our pets, our family trips, and so on and so on. It’s as if all that history has been erased. Shades of Orwell’s “1984.”
    Thanks for sharing your memories with this forum.
    Maybe when Cuba is under “new management,” you and I can arrange a joint photographic expedition there?

  6. Julio, it would be a pleasure to accompany you and hopefully many like us to do a photo tour of a free Cuba. Interesting point, to the extent my family had managed to smuggle photos out of Cuba through the years, they were all in B&W or Sepia. I am fortunate to have some photos of my great grandmother from Santiago taken in the 1920’s in front of a mirror which was the style back then. Those images were likely taken on those old large format cameras, likely a 5×7 I would think and the image would be printed on a postcard. Those images are as clear as the day they were taken. Now as to the color images taken when I was a baby in the mid 60’s, they’ve all faded and heaven knows whatever happened to the negatives. I figure it would have been better had everything been shot in B&W and I’d still have images left. I’ve tried to restore some in photoshop, but it’s an effort esp. with those faded beyond repair.

    As to photos from my family from Cuba, i.e., my mother and aunt when they were little and my grandparents when they were young, looking at those images is unreal when I start to see that dang, I looked like my grandfather when he was in his 40’s and slightly pudgy like I’ve gotten. Or wow, my mom at age 8 resembles my offspring. I only have a few of the images, but I’ll treasure them always.

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