Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Tale Thrice Told

I’m sure there is a book or written entry already out there with a title like this. All good ones are taken, seems like. Then… there should be no problem to share it with one little insignificant piece of writing.

It has been a while since I sat at the computer with the intent to write something for the blog. In fact, 45 days have gone by since the last entry. Reasons? There could be many, including a degree of laziness. In truth, there have been a couple of minor skin surgeries and an increasing battle with the one hip which is quickly becoming a “something” candidate. Many pressures from different sections and, in the end, life in general has been happening.

Historical Center - Parque Marti
Yesterday, I received an invite to join a group in FB. I usually don’t accept, being there only two groups I have joined (including this last one), out of many invitations. Not that I think myself to be that important, for most of these come by way of FB itself. However, this invitation was to join those who remember Cienfuegos, my hometown in Cuba as the beautiful city it was and still is. There is a saying in Cuba (there was in my time, at least) that said “Primero Cienfuegueros y después Cubanos” Loosely translated, it meant “First Cienfuegos born, then Cuban”. That how strong a regional feeling we have.

It is the only city in Cuba designed by French architects, under Spanish rule and some 8 years ago, the center of the city was designated by UNESCO as “Patrimonio Cultural Humano” or, cultural legacy to humanity. The buildings, the layout of the city (straight streets, measuring 100 meters to the block) and the fact this was wrapped around a corner of a beautiful and fairly large closed bay, just added to the overall picture.

Sunset on the Bay
But… what makes a city a home and what makes those memories which keep us feeling, as the years and distances grow, still a part of that city? It’s not the buildings or the layout; it is not the pomp and circumstance… it is the people who helped us grow, the ambiance, the things done as a child … the escapades, the school and the schoolmates of many years. The moments spent learning to deal with people, to ride bike, to skate, to swim… the meets with their accompanying exultation of winning or the desolation of losing. It is the painful memory of a long lost family which, as a child, gave me support and hope yet, whose own hopes were dashed by the unending dominance ambitions of others.

Memories of being late in the school year and looking forward to the summer, the club… going with my grandfather at the break of day and enjoying early morning rowing on the very quiet bay waters, which reflected the sunrise in full Technicolor hues… going around “La Punta” or “The Point” and then coming back in time for swimming practice.

The old Distillery... now a ghost bldg.
Memories of friends, some who were lost at an early age for their open complaints about the new regime… most other gone into a never ending emotional Diaspora, far flung into different parts of our world.

When I see a picture of a building in Cienfuegos (most remain the same) it is not the walls or the painting or how well preserved (or not) it may be. What I see are people whom I knew and remember, some who may have lived in that building, some who may have (as in the case of the old family rum distillery) worked there and who were thought of as part of the family.

Palacio del Valle on the bay,
under the moon
I see schoolmates when I look at my old school, now a detention center, remember games played and lessons learned… I remember the noises of these city streets as I rode my bike through them, the smell of the port area, the brine and salt of the water… riding down the “malecon” (bayside drive) and feeling the warm breeze coming from the water… and when after a beautiful sunset, the darkness of night fell… there came the shrimp fishermen, riding their low slung boats each with a light… just like having two starry skies… the one above and the one at my fingertips, right there on the bay.

Some people may say that keeping memories is a waste of time. I disagree… completely. These old memories and all the others accumulated over years of living are what make us who we are; they give us guidance and give us strength in difficult moments; I know… they have been a pillar of strength and a survival force for me in more than one occasion over the years.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
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Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...