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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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  1. Lex my dear, you have such a gift. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful pieces you have featured on your blog. So much emotion, life and LOVE in your words. Thank you for sharing such an intimate and beauteous reunion. Endless Love XO

  2. I agree with Monique, definitely the best post so far on here. I can almost hear the laughs through your photos. What an amazing bond among your family. So much love can be seen through your words and these captured moments.


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