My friend Lourdes has been waiting for the announcement of Fidel’s death for a long time, since she and her family fled Cuba at the time of the revolution.
Like other Cuban-born Americans, Lourdes and her husband Evelio took their culture with them, and kept it. When I visited them recently in Rochester, Evelio made media-noche sandwiches for our lunch — a classic Cuban grilled sandwich made from roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese and dill pickles on crusty Cuban bread. The bread, Evelio told me regretfully, was not quite authentic, not what he would have served in Cuba. We had platano chips on the side, and small cups of strong, sweet Cuban coffee after our meal.
Evelio remembers the taste and texture of the real Cuban bread, even all these decades later.
Lourdes’ late sister Ada, a professor, went to Cuba as part of an educational mission, but Lourdes has refused to go until Fidel died. Now, with her adult kids and grandkids eager to see this extended family’s country of origin and travel restrictions eased, the path is clear. Lourdes and Evelio travel a lot; I suspect they may go. They are firmly Cuban Americans, with deep roots here and grandchildren who are less fluent in Spanish than I am. Yet Cuba is still home.
Someone asked recently if I feel like a Pacific Northwesterner. I don’t, actually — although son Matt says that he does. I carry my East Coast origins with me; I feel more at home in New York than I do in Seattle. I like it here and I’m happy I moved. It’s just that the sounds and sights and feel of the place are different from the place where I grew up.
How about you? Did you come from a place different from where you are? Would you, like Evelio, remember the taste of the right bread? Would you, like me, feel that the crowded energy of Manhattan streets is the norm, and everything else the contrast? Is “home” where you are now, or the reference point against which all other places are set? Curious to know.