Growing up I always dreamt of visiting where my family was from. Unfortunately, I was always warned of the dangers of going to Cuba. Having left her family behind 32 years ago, my grandmother finally made the bold decision to want to return to see her last living sister, Anita. She suffers from Alzheimer’s. I quickly took this opportunity to accompany her and see all the places my mother and grandmother would revisit in their daydreams.
I knew going with my grandmother and knowing what this trip meant to her would be emotional, but when we arrived in the small town of Perico, far deep into the country, I was welcomed with a huge culture shock as well. Walking into a home that had no running water, just one light bulb that worked, not to mention any air conditioning or heater. All of that meant nothing, seeing my grandmother and her sister, despite her not knowing whom she was, was worth so much. I will forever been indebted to my grandmother for allowing me to share that with her.
The trip to Perico made me realize that things are just as bad as all the stories I’d been told! Communism truly had taken such a beautiful place and turned it into a nearly deserted area, with people struggling to survive. Homes that had fallen apart and left as empty structures, all of this continued showing me all the things I should be grateful for.
There’s so much of Cuba that people overlook we only ever hear of Havana. A city that booms with tourism, but no one ever goes deeper into the countryside. I surely wanted to bring areas like Perico to light. So that others see the truth that lies out there.
My favorite memory of that trip was a Saturday night, some of the people in the town wanted to take me out to the local club, but I decided to stay at home with my grandmother and her sister. That night Anita was as clear as ever! Both sat up all night recalling stories of their childhood, their fights. How Anita would make my grandmother’s boyfriends life hell. When Castro’s regime began. Anita was a nurse helping those in the war. Hearing these stories made me so emotional, knowing my grandmothers childhood stories was the most beautiful and favorite memory of that trip.
The funniest memory would have to be the first day we arrived; we came with an entire bag full of food for Anita. That afternoon my grandmother decided to make her famous spaghetti’s. Anita devoured that plate like she hadn’t eaten spaghetti’s in years! She had red sauce all over her face and hands. I remember laughing so much, but seeing her with such a beautiful expression of joy and happiness. All for spaghetti.
When I arrived back in Miami after that trip, I immediately felt a change in myself, in my heart. Having spent those days in Cuba gave me a look into a life that luckily was just momentarily, but permanent for those who live there. I realized everything I have and all that I work for is MINE. Fortunately, there isn’t someone that controls my life and my decisions. That freedom meant everything to me once I stepped off that plane.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit. I enjoy seeing different parts of the world, always in search of something different, but somehow always being most enamored with the raw and abandoned hidden areas of the world.