Falling in Love in Cuba
The immigration officer looked straight into my eyes and asked me, “Where have you been?” I responded in a very low voice…”Cuba”…Then he asked me again, only louder, “Where did you say you were?” And I said louder, but mumbling and fast, “Cuba.” I felt like my father just caught me doing something wrong! And I was ashamed of it, like a little girl! Before I answered anything else, I grabbed the notarized papers I had that authorized me to visit Cuba. I was at the Miami International Airport, along with hundreds of other people, all of us getting through the Department of Homeland Security.
I look back into the eyes of the officer and like in photographs taken by a camera, the memories of my last 10 days in Havana pass through my eyes. What did I do in Cuba? Well, I drank a thousand Cuban coffees, which are very good by the way; I met with and visited artist and their studios; I also walked all over Havana for hours and hours on end. Although the purpose of my trip was not political but more of an artistic investigation, this did not prevent me from thinking how our lives are so different. It is so difficult for us to imagine that people have adapted to living with only the basic foods, no gourmet, no variety, etc. They are accustomed to having limitations in their clothes selection, no retail therapy. Freedom to just be and act as you wish, it’s not there. They also lack financial independence and a sense of security. But what was even more fascinating to me was that the SOUL and good sense of humor is still completely intact in the Cuban people. They have a love for life, a joie de vivre, that for our capitalist mentality, is hard to believe.
The Cuban experience, however it is politically, is always defined by their passion for music! Cuba is actually more than an experience, it is a feeling. There was music on every corner, and in every restaurant. While listening and watching (sometimes dancing), it was impossible not to be affected by their passion! It is contagious! They are also always ready to say something quick witted and amusing. This is the part I enjoyed enormously!
My good fortune allowed me to stay at the house of a Cuban sculptor friend. This gave me the opportunity to see Cuba from an insider’s perspective. Although he seems to be better off than the majority of Cubans, I do want to say emphasize that the ease and convenience that we know in the States (even in Mexico) is something that does not exist in the Cuban vocabulary. It takes a lot of effort to try and do anything- from buying food (there’s not much available) to making a living (with a salary of $20 a month).
While I was in my friend’s house, something remarkable happened- I totally fell in Love! I must say, it was not love at first sight and it was actually with a very handsome Great Dane, his name is Coso. When he first met me he looked and my girl friend and I as though saying, “What are you doing in this big house that is MY territory”! He would follow us everywhere, almost like a security guard for the house. If we were in the living room, he would make sure he would get his big dog body between all of us. If we went to porch, he wanted to be the first one to get there, and being such a big dog of course he was successful at always being present! He would look at us with droopy red eyes, but he won my heart. Every afternoon when we returned, he would bark like Pavarotti to let everyone know we were back. I admit that I seduced him. Yes, I admit it! I seduced him for a kiss! And viola! Coso and I were in love!
But reality brings me back to my current encounter with the immigration officer. He hands me back my papers, and says to me clearly and firmly, Welcome Home. And I felt a great joy knowing that yes I was home. Santa Fe is my home.
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