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