Beach time, Cuban-style
This essay is part of Pa’ la Playa: Beach Week on the Tiki Tiki.
Back in 1961 my parents joined hundreds of fellow Cubans on their heartbreaking exile to the U.S.A. Their adopted homeland did very much for their broken spirits by way of opportunity and moral support. As they worked hard to rebuild and assimilate in Miami they found comfort in reestablishing many of the traditions they enjoyed in Cuba.
Born in Miami in 1963, I was not privy to my parents’ “La Cuba de Ayer” and so the only routines I grew up with were the ones they recreated here, and hands down my favorite was the monthly trip to “la playa!”
For me, it was a mind-blowing experience every single time. The excitement started at the moment of conception. Usually a casual conversation among the adults that one of the kids would overhear and report back, “We’re going to the beach!”
Our hearts and minds would race. Not burdened with the hard science of time and space we just wanted to be catapulted to the morning of “beach day.” And when the day would finally arrive, it brought with it all the organized chaos of a circus.
The aunts and uncles and friends would join the caravan to “la playa” at the crack of dawn. We had to get there early enough to find a prime space to set up the cooking area.
Even the seemingly endless drive there was exciting. The kids would be shouting to each other what we’d do upon arrival. We’d show off our new beach toys and bathing suits. Our voices reaching a feverish pitch as we talked over each other until an adult would warn us to keep the roar of joy to a whisper. How could anyone be calm because “Tia, we’re going to the BEACH!!!!!!!”
Once we reached “Mecca” the kids rushed the water and the adults rushed the coolers. The men folk would crack open those much-needed beers and the women folk would start the prep work the seaside feast. We’d play like drunken pirates. Running, throwing sand, pushing each other in the water, breaking out into fights before making up again. We lived a thousand lives in those few hours.
Inevitably lunch would be announced and it would be our time to understand the concept of “bittersweet.” We knew we’d be enjoying a delicious “bar-bee-q” meal but our swimming would be sidelined for an hour after we ate. Still, you could hear a pin drop during the moment of consumption. Our skin would already be getting a golden pink from our unprotected sun exposure. Our hair matted from the ocean water, our bodies unfashionably wrapped in towels as we sat in silence. Eating then thinking and plotting and planning as that hour passed so we could return to the games.
The long day would come to an end as the sun began to set. The drive home was quiet. Faces pushed against the window or on each other’s shoulders as we slept off the day. At home we would move like zombies to the shower and then unceremoniously pass out on our beds and dare to dream of our next trip to “La Playa!
Of all my wonderful childhood memories the beach will always stand out head and shoulders above the rest. I’m not sure why but I think it may have something to do with the fact that as great of a job as my parents did to make Miami home, nothing felt more like Cuba than the beach.
Today my brother owns a second home in Key Largo, on the water. And I live just five miles away from the beach in the seaside town of Jupiter. While many view water front property as a luxury or a symbol of means, to us it is far more precious than that.
For us it is powerful symbol of the struggle, the victory and the endlessness hope that carried our families and shaped us into the people we are today.
Maruchy Ramos-Lachance lives in Jupiter, Florida with her “Americano” husband and son. She runs, writes and oversees the family business, Running Ninja! a lifestyle brand for runners.