Author’s note: This was first published 2/14/10. It is still my reality, that of millions of Cubans and others around the world who’ve suffered the same fate as I throughout our imperfect history.
Forty one years ago today I became an exile.
I left Cuba on a day like today as a fourteen-year-old with my seventeen-year-old sister, traveling through Spain to get to the promised land: Southern California. This is where our cousins — the ones that sent for us — had settled. An American friend of theirs from church had donated the money to pay for my airfare. My cousins had paid for my sister’s.
In Spain we stayed with friends that were making the same trip but who were ahead of us by a couple of months. My parents were to join us later in Los Angeles, if everything worked out. It was not until years later that I was able to comprehend how big an if that had been.
As an adult, I lived in three different houses on one block of Mountain Road. Four, if you count the apartment I shared with my second wife. I now live about a half a mile from there. Most days, particularly in the warmer months, my walking route takes me around these former residences. My emotional relationship to these places vary from the insignificant to the life altering, but because I see them so often, these connections tend to stay in the back of the memory bank. They’ve become part of the background scenery.
These are some of them: my daughter was born on one of these addresses; I lived across the street when I graduated from college; my family had a small garment business in an industrial building — now converted to condos — at the beginning of the street; I faced a “dark night of the soul” at another one of the residences at the end of the Road and lived to see the morning light. That was two and a half decades ago. I also see the house where I last saw my father alive, in a cold day in February, thirty years ago. This house, overlooking the Island of Manhattan and the Hudson River, is vacant. It waits, along with a few of the neighboring properties, a rebirth by redevelopment into high-end housing units. Continue reading →