Roots and Remembrances
Editor’s note: My mother and aunt left Cuba in 1957 when they were 14 and 11. The guerrillas were in the hills in Oriente Province when my family left. My mom and aunt returned to their hometown on the eastern side of the island last month for the first time. This is my mom’s recount.
My father, God bless him, did the best thing for all his children when he took us out of Banes in 1957. I was 14-years-old, but all these years Banes was always in my mind and heart.
I don’t have another 53 years to wait to go back.
As the plane was flying over Holguin I had tears rolling down. This is the country where my soul became a being, where family I never saw again are resting in peace. When we drove to Banes, all my childhood memories came back. I so enjoyed walking the street, going to my old school, to the little church.
I walked into the church on Sunday morning and told a few people there who I am and about my family and what that church meant to me as a child. Abuelo Santiago and Tita Elina used to take me there and Tio Luis would ring the bells to let everyone know services were ready to start. I don’t have to tell you how much I cried.
The few friends I have left there were loving. It was like one of your own coming back. To my surprise old neighbors remember us.
Now, I am trying to tell my mind to keep those all memories of long ago. The Banes I saw a few days ago is not the Banes of my childhood. Nothing stays the same, that I know. But due to circumstance the Banes of my heart is gone.
I thank God for giving me the chance to go back at this time in my life. I am blessed with good health, I am Home and at peace. This great Country gave me a blessed life. I will always remember this trip with nostalgia and with sadness but also glad I made it.
Maybe some day, when my nietas get older, I will tell them a story of Once Upon a Time there was a town called Banes where their abuela and their ancestors were born — a beautiful place with palm trees, blue sky, where stars shine brighter than any other place, where the sea is as blue as the sky. Maybe some day when abuela is long gone, and things change, they will be able to walk the same streets, and find their roots and create their own memories.
And a final editor’s note. When I visited Cuba in 1996, I went to my mother’s hometown and to the beautiful Guardalavaca beach. My husband took the picture of me, below. When my mom was there last month, she had my aunt shoot her in the same pose….and now, the two will be framed side by side. Maybe one day, we’ll take the photo there together.