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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

La Reunión

TORN. This was the overpowering sentiment I experienced last weekend in Washington D.C. I was lucky to be a witness and historian to a reunion 50 years in the making, amongst some of the most amazing women I've ever met: my Cuban family. The last few weeks were spent in elated anticipation of our cousin Beatriz's arrival from Cuba. The family was separated in 1964 when my Grandparents sought refuge in the U.S. and Beatriz and her siblings remained in Cuba. They did not meet again until November 12, 2013. What took place was a jubilant reconnection of lineage, an outpour of tears and laughter and reverence, and a reignited resilience fueled by love.


Torn, divided, split, severed, broken, disunited. As in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. The people of Cuba were forced to choose sides during the time of political unrest and one's life depended on where he/she stood on several different issues: for or against the Revolution, radical expulsion of corruption or gradual reform, Communism or Democracy. These divides severed families, friends and cultural kinships and created turmoil within the country that has spilled into American politics in the debate over our relationship with Cuba.

Torn, wavering, irresolute, hesitant, uncertain.  As in the indefinite state of emotional unrest of every Cuban since 1959. To stay in one's beloved homeland or leave in search of opportunity is a decision that I can only imagine to be paralyzing. Those, like my family, who committed to the departure, are destined to a life of duality. The pursuit of liberation is a contract, never to be amended, at the cost of a fragmented family and a permanent desertion of the root of one's culture. The tradeoff must be paramount.  

Torn - ripped, pulled apart, disconnected. As in the way families such as mine were physically separated during the Cuban revolution. In 1961 my Grandparents performed what I honor as an outrageous act of faith and courage; sending their four eldest children on a plane to America with nothing more than a kiss and a blessing. They bid them farewell with only the hope of requisition on the faith filled horizon.  My mother and Auntie Mari, the two youngest, stayed behind and with their parents, spent the next 3 years making innumerable attempts to leave the country by every means of transportation possible. Finally, in 1964, they were able to legally and safely travel abroad where they reunited with the other children who had been split across the U.S. When they finally arrived in America, my 7-year old mother didn't even recognize her siblings.

The family repaired this separation by forging an indestructible bond, and the sisters especially embody that in their devotion to togetherness. I have spent my entire life looking up to these women, my Aunties are my mothers, and their children my siblings. The appreciation and endless gratitude of these women for their presence in each others' lives defined my view of family. We are given a rare opportunity in this lifetime to share genetics, childhood experiences, values and culture with a few - chosen not by us but by God - and this blessing is one that can not be taken for granted.

And so the weekend with Beatriz was celebrated with unparalleled reverence for the retrieval of a lost kin from a lost country and a lost history. 

We spent the few days together sitting by the fire, drinking Cuba Libres, embracing, sharing, emoting. Spanish spoken tales from opposite worlds bridged curious gaps while time travel through photo albums brought warm, nostalgic bliss. Beatriz cooked us a traditional Cuban meal and the aromas satiated a longing for home that far surpassed the five senses. On the last day, we held a prayer circle which included Goddess card readings, gratitude invocations, and farewell wishes. 

{From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Auntie Mari, Auntie Ileana, Auntie Mina (Gloria), Giselle (my Mother), Beatriz, and Ita (my Grandmother) }

To say goodbye with the notion of permanent severance is an art form my family has mastered with graceful tears and elegant sorrow.

It was a moment I feel honored to have captured in grainy black and whites, for their imperfection and simplicity is proof of a Godly presence.

I hope to visit Cuba in the near future and feel blessed to have family inviting me with open arms. However, I know that the Cuba I visit will be neither the home of my mother's childhood, nor the dream of a country held in the hearts of those who stayed.


The following is a clip from The Lost City, an incredible film directed and scored by Andy Garcia which took 16 years to complete. This is the last scene of the film, where the main character, Fico, a successful night club owner from Havana, decides to leave everything; his career, his family, the love of his life, to start anew in New York City.  It is a beautiful depiction of Cuban duality. The poem he recites is "Cultiva La Rosa Blanca" by Jose Martí.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Does Adventure Mean To You?

 photos: Lex Weinstein, Seewah Russo, Carly Brown

The opportunity of a wide open road. Freedom to howl at the moon.  The limitlessness of diving head first into a sea of possibilities. Getting lost in order to better find your Self.  Adventure begins when you stop knowing and start feeling.

A few months ago I made one of the riskiest decisions of my life – I quit my full time job, sold all my belongings, and flew halfway around the world in search of waves and watery wonderment. Whether it's immersing myself in the savory cuisine and close family structure of the Tahitians, or participating in traditional ceremonies and offerings with the locals I met in Bali, I thrive in learning the sacredness of different cultures. Nature is central to this through its delivery of awe and insight that human interaction cannot always achieve. Surfing and hiking alone always leave me with a radiating sense of oneness with the Earth I’m exploring. It is important for me not only to connect with the history of the people, but also the land from which their lives have been sustained.

Camping on old Chumash territory in the canyons of California, I participated in a traditional exercise where we walked blindfolded and barefoot through the forest toward the sound of a beating drum. An initial impulse of fear shook me to my core. But, when able to find calm, I discovered a true North that led me carefully down a clear path. Obstacles arose, but when approached with patience and confidence I was able to maneuver around them quite effortlessly. When put in situations where we can't plan or control every last detail, we are forced to trust our instincts and learn more about ourselves in the process. This beautiful awakening of self discovery is a perfect example of how adventure gives us the opportunity to take reign over the unexpected while surrendering to the abundance and experience it has in store for us. 
 Having the courage to explore foreign lands, deepen my connection to nature, and pause long enough to take it all in -- that is what true adventure means to me.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sugarhigh + Lovestoned // Electric Ladyland


Featuring Natlie Bergman of Wild Belle
Photographer // Aaron Feaver
The day this lookbook dropped from Sugarhigh + Lovestoned I was literally sitting in my room, candles lit with my Dad's vintage vinyls scattered all over the floor and Jimmy Hendrix' Electric Ladlyland spinning at full blast. I happened to spot some of the photos floating around social media and instantly my senses began competing for most dramatic response.

Synchronicity is an enigma, as is the ability for this label to consistently capture the vividness of a lost era in which so many of us crave to bask in for a single moment. Stylist Chloe Chippendale + Wild Belle babe Natalie Bergman make for a boho dream team meshing feathered innocence and wicked beauty... Rich berry tones and velvety textures illuminate the timeless 1970's key pieces: bellbottoms, blazers and boleros combined with fringe and fur for a modern take on a classic vibe.

Make sure to check out Spirit Messenger, my other favorite SH+LS lookbook as well as the full website for all the amazing threads + inspo.


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