The passing of Cuba’s greatest generation, and of Abuela Cuca

It is a sad reality that my generation of Cuban Americans and those after me have to face more frequently now as time continues to move forward: The passing of the courageous generation of Cubans who brought us to freedom and spared us the pain and misery of repression. To many of us, this generation is indeed the greatest generation of Cubans. They were the ones who sacrificed everything, giving up their lives, their homes, their possessions, and their livelihoods, traveling to a foreign country with a foreign language — most with empty pockets — all so their children and grandchildren could grow up in freedom instead of oppression.

As each day passes, we lose more and more members of this generation, and the Cuban people as a whole — both on the island and in exile — lose another reminder of their heritage and of the astounding bravery and resilience of the Cuban people. Nevertheless, as each one passes away, they leave behind their mark in our lives and in this world. A mark that says freedom may be extremely expensive, but it is always worth the price.

In memory of one those members of this great generation, Danny Pino in the Sun-Sentinel:

To passing generation of Cuban exiles, add beloved Abuela Cuca

Danny Pino's abuela, Maria Consuelo "Cuca" de Len Vd. de Armas, held interests that were equal parts faith and elegant fashion. Morther Teresa, Princess Grace and Princess Diana.A mi abuela le daría mucha pena y tristeza saber que yo escribí estos pensamientos sobre su vida en inglés. Siempre pidiéndonos, rogando, “Por favor, hablen español.” A la misma vez, le daría orgullo que yo lo pudiera traducir al español. Al fin, una de las realidades y ventajas del exilio es la asimilación. Gracias y perdóname, Abuelita.

Her hands were powerful, large and utilitarian, yet had the dexterity, wisdom and sensitivity to feel the surface of a fabric, identifying the ideal entrance point for her needle and envisioning the precise target for its exit. Her expansive and dense nail beds were rarely glossy or painted. Despite the functional visage of her digits, they remained feminine, tender and healing.

During the workweek, those same hands skillfully and rapidly took shorthand, typed and multi-tasked, carrying out her various secretarial duties. Adorned only with a thin gold wedding band, the clone of which was worn by her husband, her hands steadily and diligently worked weekends and into the night measuring, cutting, sewing, hemming and embroidering fabric mostly for the adornment and enjoyment of her family. The intricate designs, choice of color and the amount of time she dedicated to her craft reflected her artistry; every stitch communicating her pride and love for her family.

Many recent deaths have been symbolic of the passing of the generation who made the pivotal, gut-wrenching decision to leave a Cuba politically, economically and socially embattled by a violent, totalitarian, revolutionary regime; uprooting their families, separating loved ones, having businesses shuttered or nationalized, and abandoning homes and motherland — the Cuban exile generation. These emblematic deaths have mostly been public figures, entertainers, athletes, writers, politicians, celebrated or reviled by the media and the Cuban diaspora.

In mid-June, the passing of a generation became more tangible, more personal, with the quiet death of a figure who never appeared in the public eye. Her meaningful work carried out away from probing cameras, glowering pundits and cheering crowds, and yet she is a personage as representative and significant as any who has died in exile, the Cuban abuela; more specifically, my Cuban abuela, María Consuelo “Cuca” de León Vd. de de Armas.

Continue reading HERE.

2 thoughts on “The passing of Cuba’s greatest generation, and of Abuela Cuca”

  1. This reminds me of what Roberto Luque said recently upon the death of Alvarez Guedes: “We got screwed. Our nation is dying day by day, after enduring half a century separated from the land in which it was formed, now populated by a different kind of people.” It’s very, very sad, actually tragic.

    I repeat my very indelicate and un-PC view: Despite the inevitable exceptions, Cuba’s best people, by and large, wound up in exile–taking with them their talents, examples and genes. Especially for those who were not too old to start a new life abroad, it made little sense to stay in a totalitarian shithole where politics always trumps merit. What was left, and naturally reproduced, was of lesser quality, generally speaking, which led to the current crop of “new men” or, as Luque refers to them, “asere-qué-volás.” Again, it’s tragic.

  2. I had this story scheduled to go up but Alberto beat me to it. I’ve grabbed my personal commentary from it…

    Cuban-American actor Danny Pino has starred in such TV hits as “Cold Case” and (currently) “Law and Order: SVU”. He has also co-starred with Andy Garcia in movie projects “The Lost City” and “Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright”. The Pino family, like many Cuban-Americans, settled in and has been centered in and around Miami for generations. With the recent June passing of his beloved Cuban Abuela he has added her to the numbers of that passing greatest Cuban generation that bravely gathered no more than their families in their arms and left Castro’s and Che’s communist invasion and occupation of Cuba for the USA. Pino reflects on her devoted and hardworking life, and all she gave and meant to the succeeding generations of the family that, perhaps, all Cuban-Americans are familiar with and can relate to.

    It is a memoriam that any of us could simply plug our family name(s) into. When you read Danny Pino’s full and vividly detailed memories about his Abuela Cuca … her love, beauty, grace, strength, perseverance, faith, work ethic … you will feel as if you are somehow reading your own family’s history. My own Grandmother was from Hungary, but her story of personal responsibility as a child to her family during WWI, and coming here post-war (herself only 12 years old at the time) with very little to take any and all work she could to help her family build a new life in America (and during the following challenges of the hard times and the adult “Great Depression” years ahead) sounds very parallel to many, many emigrant Grandmothers’ love, beauty, grace, strength, perseverance, faith, and work ethic to start over again and again … never a victim to life or circumstance … never expecting or demanding anyone else to do it for them. I think when we lose these matriarchs (and patriarchs) who gambled so greatly with their lives and lived through historic times/events to spend the next generations passing on their words of history, core wisdom and all that kept them strong and surviving we feel a twinge of loss of that direct connection to history. However, they have left with us the responsibility of passing on that history, and the family fortune of love, faith, family and all that is really important in life that in this day and age we find all too easy to forget. They may have not been known to or recognized by the celebrity-addicted world, but they were/are 20th century heroes and superstars to us.

    And a final note on Pino’s description(s)of his Grandmother … The way he carefully describes her hands is also something I too keep at the top of the list of memories about my Grandmother. How many people would even think to include a loved one’s hands in their fondest memories of them?

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