The Cuba I Never Knew

New stories from the old times

Archive for June, 2013

The Cuba I Never Knew

This is the story of old Cuban times, told by the grandparents.

They talk about street names and places that don’t exist anymore. They talk about the way they used to dress and the shops they used to stop over.

They talk about the Cuba the younger generations never knew.

 Olga and Eugenio, who were both born in two different rural provinces in Cuba, happened to move to the city of Havana as teenagers.

“At Havana I found many beautiful and good things,” says Eugenio, 83.

They encountered a city full of splendor and lights. They found a vibrant community at the peak of its golden era. The city where factory-new American cars made their debut along with many other fresh trends of the time.

Eugenio recalls how he would take advantage of the prosperity that pampered the citizens. He would polish shoes at the streets and sell lottery tickets. Lottery was a big source of income, brought by the Americans, that was just starting to be exploited. Later, he went from salesclerk of a small bakery to manager at one of the most visited bakeries of the time, SuperCake, which is now gone. 

Eugenio and Olga met at a Baptist church located in which is now called the historical center of the city. He recalls seeing her for the first time and thinking: “This is the one.”

A quick proposal happened at a crowed bus. “Just tell me: Yes or no?” he told her, “I get off at the next stop,” he warned her. Olga, concise as she has always been, looked at him in eye and told him “Just stay here quiet.”

 

They married on September 30, 1955, about 57 years ago. In all these years, Olga says she doesn’t remember a time when they have argued about anything.

“The key is not to start an argument. If you don’t say anything, he can’t reply at nothing,” she says.

Things changed for the couple after Cuban revolution. The city was not the same. It had been fractioned and dismantled. They lived in a one-room apartment at a big, gray building with their three kids. Yet, for Eugenio, it all depends on how you see it.

“The revolution brought some good and bad things. Some people might not agree, but I have to be fair,” he says.

The kids grew and the couple was able to move to a more confortable house and quieter neighborhood. The memories of what things used to be, they passed on to their grandchildren.

Yet, 6 months ago, life drastically changed again for Eugenio and Olga. They flew to Miami for a new, more secure life. Yet, whenever they talk about what they left, their eyes turn watery.

Cuba Nostalgia was the perfect event for them to attend last month. It is designed for people like them, that don’t doubt about the rightness of their decision to leave, but enjoy remembering the land they call their home. 

At the event, representation of old places and customs takes place, providing attendants with the illusion of actually being walking along their beloved city.

“It was a beautiful experience,” says Eugenio, who barely managed to avoid the tears as he browsed trough the exposition floors.