New Kid on La Cuadra

Like most of you, Babalublog is a daily stop for me (multiple daily stops most of the time) for everything that has to do about Cuba. Since I began reading Val’s creation, it has brought me closer to my Cuban heritage and introduced me to some incredible people like Val himself and the many others here who work hard to keep this blog fresh, interesting and relevant day-in and day-out. The job they do is amazing, so imagine how I felt when Val asked me to become a regular contributor to Babalublog. To say I am honored to be given the privilege of writing alongside these great contributors here is not enough.
Many of you may already know me and have read my blog and some of my essays. To those of you who do not know me, I believe this will give you a good idea of who I am: American by birth – Cuban by blood. As my first post here, I would like to share with all of you something I wrote a few days ago that explains my feelings.

The Cuba Inside Me
I have never felt the heat of a Cuban sun on my face.
I have never felt the sand of a Cuban beach between my toes.
I have never been in a small cafetería hidden in the backstreets of Havana and ordered an Ironbeer y Frita Cubana.
I have never enjoyed a cold Tropical beer on a Sunday afternoon at the Tropical Beer Gardens on the banks of the Almendares River.
I have never been to a farm in Pinar del Rio and listened to a Punto Guajiro while waiting for the lechón to be done.
I have never walked up to my grandmother’s house in Herradura during the early evening and smelled the blossoming jasmines she planted by her front door.
These are all recollections that belong to the friends and members of my family that came before me. Unlike them, I was born in the United States and have no memories of Cuba—all I have are black and white photographs and some treasured moments they have shared with me. A tyrant separated my family from their memories, and that same tyrant separates me from my future memories.
Some people have asked me how I can have such strong feelings and dedication for a country I have never seen. The answer is simple, though hard for some to understand: Cuba is not just an island in the Caribbean—it is a part of my very being. It lives inside me.
I could have been born anywhere in the world, but I still would have been born a Cuban.

24 thoughts on “New Kid on La Cuadra”

  1. Alberto-We met and talked for a few minutes at Cuba Nostalgia this year. I was so impressed to meet yet another American who feels so much love for Cuba. I’m glad you are here at Babalu and will be reading your inspirational and informative writings.

  2. I thought about that George and what comes to mind is what my family used to call me when I was a little kid: “el americanito.” Back then I was the only one in the family born outside of Cuba, so I was a novelty for a while.

  3. Welcome aboard, Alberto. Looking forward to your insightful
    essays. This blog continues to educate all of us who peek
    in several times a day.
    Your first posting was excellent.
    Best regards always

  4. Wonderful post Alberto. I am 46 and left Cuba at 7 years old. I have all of those memories…they are so very present, yet also vague. Yet they are in there. Always.

  5. Very moving post Alberto.
    Fortunately for me, I have very good memories of my early childhood in Cuba:
    I remember the park were I used to play; my school, the Parque Vidal were I used to roller skate (Union 5 that were a real pain to keep on); the field trips taken with my school during “Semana del Niño” (children’s week); Gaby, Fofo and Miliki when the circus came to town; The Carnivals; The verbena of Santa Clara; visiting El Cobre to see “La Virgen de la Caridad,” El Salto de La Hanabanilla; Swiming in the river; roasting pigs in “El Corojo” (my dad’s farm) when we went to visit. Spending the summer months at our beach house at “El Salto.” La tienda del Chino William were I took all my soda bottles and exchanged them for 2 pennies each. Then, after buying candy with the money I got for the bottles I would ask for “la contra.” William would wave his arms in the air and make a big fuss, but then he would turn around and give me a fist full of candy. All my friends; walking to the Plaza to buy fresh fruits; the Villaclara Tennis Club and my swimming lessons; eating Mercocha, Raspadura and Helado de Mantecado. Drinking Materva or Cuquito with “pastelitos” for my “Merienda.” Climbing the fence at the “Campo de Sport” (in the Carretera Central) to chase the peacocks, and then running for my life to the nearest tree….
    Then fidel, raul, and che came along and all I remember is being afraid. I left Cuba in 1961 when I was 10 years old.

  6. Of the countless thefts perpetrated by the “robolucion,” the theft of heritage and patrimony is among the worst. There’s no way to recuperate what should have been a given, an inalienable right, such as growing up in one’s own country and culture among one’s own people. Those guilty of that theft cannot ever “make up” for it (not that they remotely care), but they should never be let off the hook for it. There is absolutely no way to justify such a crime.

  7. Thank you! Beautiful and poignant, Alberto. You brought tears to my eyes. I was 6 years old when we left. I have fond memories of our Island Paradise. I play them over and over in my head like a movie.
    Intense orange sunsets. Skies satiated with stars.
    White, talcum powder sandy beaches; where the “shallow part” seemed to on forever. Turquoise and emerald colored waters; warm and cozy to twinkle your toes in. The way the soft and docile rain fell. How the earth smelled after that soothing rain. Cuba is a collage of sorts for me. Colors and sounds and tastes and smells.
    But there was much more. Enchanted fairies. Marvelous beigns. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Family I never saw again. All I have are memories and the hope to someday visit their graves and say Kadish.
    Maldito fidel! Mal rayo te parta!
    Even if he dies one thousand painful deaths, he will never pay for all the pain he has caused.

  8. Great post and thank you for your insight. I sponsor several fmailies a year from Cuba and always tell the young ones to remember the sacrifices their parents and others have endured.
    I visit this site daily…great info! Thanks.

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