To my granddaughter Isabel

This was the title of an old Cuban radio show. When I was a child, my grandmother was a fervent listener of that same show, and as I was always at her side, I gave in and also listened to it. That’s why I choose this title for today’s post.

In the year 1968 I was a diplomat in Paris, not as a career, but always in a rush, as had already been happening on my planet for some half a century. Out of the blue one day I was invited to the Elysee Palace, to the French National Festival. As is understandable, such a unique opportunity excited me, but also worried me greatly. We Cubans were, in comparison with the rest of the diplomatic corps, a little more down at the heels.

I had then, to go and visit the most elegant shops of the ‘City of Light’ to choose a dress that would be fitting to the occasion. I chose one from Frank and Fils, one of the most elegant of the time. It’s clear I couldn’t buy it, so after choosing it I kept it in mind and with the greatest of discretion I came away from the window and sketched it out, went back to it to make out the details, until finally my sketch was complete. Then came the best bit. Setting of on a safari trip, from shop to shop, to try to track down a material that would bear the most possible resemblance to the original. Then, buy a good pattern and all hands on deck!

The dress, with the help of a Spanish friend who was very good with her hands, looked beautiful on me. I cut it and sewed it and my friend, with a few impeccably invisible stitches, put in the zipper by hand. It looked pretty but, accessories? The most important was the footwear!

I directed myself to a specialist shop, F. Pinet and I bought myself some Italian shoes by Magli Studio of golden, matte leather, that even today I keep in a perfect state. My then husband loved them when he saw them, but when I told him what they’d cost me, he hit the roof. ‘Don’t grumble,’ I defended myself, telling him ‘If I had gone as far as buying the dress in the shop — and I wouldn’t do that — it would have worked out to be twice as expensive.’

My shoes, whose soles gracefully travelled the red carpet of the Elysee, were those that kept me standing comfortably, the 14th of July 1968, when I shook the hand of General De Gaulle, President of France.

Those shoes have accompanied me in the most important social occasions, of my old life and I still keep them in a perfect state of health and believe me, I’ve never decided to get rid of them, because they’re still good for me or perhaps they’d get a friend out of a tight spot. I learned from a young age, that things have souls.

Translated by: Jessica Burton

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