Ignoring the anti U.S. propaganda on my planet, I come to Miami with an open mind, thanks to my sporadic contacts with social networks and myself. Yesterday I had a wonderful meeting with someone I’d met a few times in Cuba as teenagers, and who I hadn’t seen since 1959, but with whom I have maintained communication through my blog and FaceBook. It was as if our mutual feelings had invisibly mended a rip made in our sentimental fabric.

We spent a marvellous day visiting places new to me, and thanks to the skill of her husband as impromptu helmsman, we were able to discover some corners of Miami together.

The Design District made an impression, now just for the beauty of its graffiti, but for the genius of converting a rundown area into marvelous art galleries, stores, studies, all decorated with beautiful examples of such popular art.

I could not but evoke with sadness a comparison of those places of once dazzling architecture and functions, converted now into ruins, “by work and disgrace” of the mis-governance of my country.

The truth about the “Cuban economic miracle” that they hid from us for so many years, due to the lack of information and the impossibility of traveling outside our borders, thanks to the Internet has emerged from the totalitarian darkness imposed on it.

And so, like meeting my friend again, I have borrowed this technology, but I’m still looking (on the unfamiliar keyboard) for the accents. Excuse me.

13 March 2014

We left very early from Miami, a name which in the Tequesta language of its original inhabitants means “Place of Many Waters.” My friend, her daughter and I were headed to Key West. The trip was surprisingly fast thanks to the wonderfully maintained freeways.

We made our first stop at Islamorada to have lunch at Wahoo’s, a typical wood-framed restaurant anchored on the coast, where dozens of pelicans were having a quiet nap on the yachts moored there.

After enjoying a tasty and reasonably priced seafood lunch of oysters and fish, we continued on toward our destination.

The landscape of blue waters on either side of the bridges, interspersed with tiny emerald green islands, brought back memories of those famous paintings by the Cuban artist Tomás Sánchez in which water plays a key role.

We shed some tears in the car while choruses and clapping to the music of Rapture and the song “Bridges” by Ricardo Arjona (see above). We arrived at the impressive Seven Mile Bridge, along whose sides old structures built of iron and wood miraculously still stood. Through them the old railroad connecting southern Florida with Key West had once passed.

So, intoxicated by our own joy we finally arrived, charged with lots of energy, at Key West.

After enjoying the air, its old buildings, today almost all its museums, parks and beautiful and luxurious hotels, we headed down Duval Street, the main artery of the city.

We made a quick tour of the main tourist sites and cultural attractions: the Club San Carlos, in whose premises still breathe imprint Marti, Ernest Hemingway’s house where the descendants of his six-toed cats still live. In Margaritaville, where we tasted their famous cocktail listening to Jimmy Buffet music, art galleries, souvenir shops, until we stopped to drink a delicious coffee at Croissants de France, a family pastry shop from 18…

Afterward we took the typical photo at the place that marks 90 miles to Cuba, while we fantasized about future bridges that could shorten once and for all this distance that cruelly separates our two shores.

We returned to retrieve our car, parked in front of the beautiful and eclectic mansion of the López Ramos family, the “southernmost house” (the house furthest south in the USA), as it is known, to say goodbye to this wonderful place.

23 February 2014

Since my arrival two weeks ago on this other piece of Cuba called Miami, I have barely had a free moment as I try to fill up the void left by the two decades since my last visit with happy reunions and long conversations.

I have had the honor and the pleasure of being the guest on prestigious radio and TV programs as well as being able to put faces to all those very familiar voices I have heard only through radio from a gracious “voluntary insile*” in my apartment in Nuevo Vedado. But above all there has been the pleasure of once again seeing those dearly beloved people who suddenly vanished from our daily landscape.

Reconnecting with a part of our culture, transported by our compatriots to this other shore, has renewed my spirit. It is true that, to my great regret, I have neglected my blog a bit, but “travelling lightly” has made me dependent on foreign technology (everything from a virus to a lack of punctuation marks). This has limited me greatly, for which I ask forgiveness of my readers. I feel very welcome wherever I go and in my “romantic fantasies” I imagine an archipelago knitted together with bridges of tolerance and reconciliation, forever linking our two shores. Bridges of love, something all Cubans need.

*Translator’s note: “Insile” here is a play on words, the opposite of “exile.”

14 February 2014

The last days of last year and the first of this year, I’ve been in a state of limbo without news from outside, except now and then when, putting my ear to the radio speaker and trying to ignore the screech of the interference, I’ve managed to hear fragments of programs from Radio Marti, plus some news that comes by mail from abroad, like the one that brought me the crazy list of cars and prices that the Cuban government is trying to sell to us, a population with an enormous difficulty in buying a quart of olive oil because the price is so high.

Why don’t they devote resources to solving the great problem of housing instead of bringing cars which, given their brands and prices, make us suspect they’re the result of shady deals, given the craziness of trying to sell them in our country? Where are the auto repair shops and the parts, as well as the personal capacity to maintain them, in case some crazy person decides to buy a car instead of an apartment for the same price?

I’m desperate for our friends — who, in solidarity, give us a few hours of Internet each week — to end their much-deserved vacation so that we can return to connecting to the real world.

8 January 2014

My friend emigrated 20 years ago. “She left without saying goodbye,” as the lyrics of a popular song go, but I understood. She was always saying to me, “This country is being swallowed up by laziness.”

Much to my surprise, the telephone rang on the night of the 25th. It was her sister, who said to me, “Guess who I have here that wants to speak with you?” Immediately, her name rolled off my tongue. I was truly shocked.

Yesterday, the 31st of December, we arranged to meet at a private restaurant in Vedado, one of the few open that day. My friend is very absent-minded and left me waiting for over two hours. During that time a terrible, ominous downpour fell from the north, not the one I wanted but from the north nonetheless. Much heat, rain and then a wonderful breeze.

To get to the restaurant, we passed the ruins of what was once the historic and iconic Hotel Trotcha, where Generalissimo Máximo Gómez stayed before settling in the Quinta de los Molinos. There I took photos of my friend and said, “You see, for the price of a ticket to Havana you can feel like you made a stop in Greece to visit ancient ruins.”

Since the only private restaurant open is charming but very expensive, we had a very frugal lunch. I was careful with my friend’s money; she is not a “millionaire,” as many people from here assume of people from there. All I ordered was an appetizer, a soft drink and an ice cream. She followed my example and did the same.

A longing for the good times led our steps towards the Hotel Riviera. We were both very impressed at its current state. Our excitement did not allow us to see details that we noticed upon leaving: leaks, stains and peeling furniture. There was no one in the lobby or in the cafe. It looked like a beautiful desert, with only a few people enjoying the pool. This hotel is managed by the Cuban company Gran Caribe.

From there we went to the Melía Cohiba. It was then that I told her, “This hotel was built to highlight the architectural beauty of the Riviera.” The Melía was busy and cheerful. All the fountains in the lobby were busy, a good number of tourists were coming and going, and a huge Christmas tree was there to welcome you. The differences were striking, a result of good maintenance. It is managed by the Spanish hotel chain, which keeps it in top condition.

We continued our walk to Linea Street so my friend could catch a cab, a very difficult task since all the “tarecones” from Playa are usually full. Finally, one stopped.

“I will take you but you have to give me a ’fula’ (normally ten pesos),” the driver said.

“O.K.” she said and we took our leave, giving each other one last hug. I crossed the busy and crowded street, and managed to catch the #27 bus (it almost never passes by), which was practically empty. I arrived home with my feet aching but happy to have had this strange but wonderful matinée and end-of-year outing.

1 January 2014

This year marks four years since I started a blog, without really knowing how to pull it off. With the help and advice of Yoani, “Through the Eye of the Needle” — the title based on a biblical phrase that was also the name I gave my first major exhibition outside “my planet,” as I refer to Cuba in my posts — went into cyberspace to describe our everyday reality.

I wanted to share this satisfaction with you, and to wish you with all my heart a 2014 of recovery of our liberty and sovereignty, as well as reconciliation, forgiveness without forgetting, and the union of all Cubans in a future homeland without charismatic leaders but with very efficient ones, where democracy reigns for everyone without any exceptions.

30 December 2013

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The streets are empty and unadorned. With their paltry displays of gifts, shop windows only hint at the season, which was once so colorful. There is an absence of ornaments but also of products and resources, and 2014 is forecast to be full of hardships and difficulties. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day do not seem to exist for the media, which only makes reference to the “celebration” of the 55th anniversary of an event that brought pain to the Cuban nation.

In the early hours of the appointed day, we could not observe the old sight of happy people full of packages circulating through the neighborhood. At night the streets are dark with only a few neighbors about. Unlike us, very few people bother to decorate their balconies and doorways with garlands of lights, not only because the custom has been disappearing, but also because they are expensive and are very few shops sell them.

On the 24th the rich aromas were absent. There was nothing to remind us of those wonderful evenings when we shared with family and close friends our dreams and fantasies for the coming year at tables laden with delicacies. Back then, even the humblest home had at least a little ham or a nice piece of pork, black beans, yucca and salad to share on that magical evening.

Though our families are spread across the globe, I refuse to give up one of the few traditions we have left, so I prepared an early dinner for my husband, who is recovering from an operation, and myself. This was because, unlike other years, we were not at the home of the only family member left in Cuba or of a friend.

I prepared some black beans, yucca with garlic sauce, thin pork cutlets and a nice salad. A friend gave us some wonderful Jijona almond brittle and I allowed myself the “luxury” of buying a bottle of Spanish wine, which costs almost the same as the domestic brand but is much better. And so it was just the two of us. We dined, toasted our family members and friends, and later watched a very good English television series that we rent called Spooks from the BBC, which I highly recommend.

27 December 2013

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