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Cuba

Guest Post with Ruth Behar: The Island that Remains in Us

By Guests, Latino Life
Hi everyone, From time to time, I have the pleasure of hosting guest authors on this site. Today it's my honor to kick off Hispanic Heritage month with a lovely guest post by 2018 award-winner Ruth Behar. Her latest book, Letters from Cuba, is historical fiction and was published last month (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House.) It's set in Cuba during World War II, when the chokehold of anti-semitism could be felt far from Europe, in even the smallest far-flung towns. I admire Ruth's research and writing, and I think she captures the many ways that a Cuban identity has always been one of intersections. ¡Bienvenida, Ruth! We're ready for the inside story on this remarkable middle grade novel. _________________________________________________________ When I sat down to write Letters from Cuba, I knew I wanted the story to be set in Agramonte, a town in the sugar-growing region of Matanzas. I’ll always remember the first time I visited Agramonte on my own, about twenty-five years ago. I met elders who competed to greet me and bring me to their homes to relax in an old wooden rocking chair. They chuckled as they kept repeating, “Así que eres la nieta de los polacos, no me digas,” delighted the granddaughter of “the Poles” had come to say hello. Rocking chairs in a home in Agramonte where Ruth stayed while doing research for Letters from Cuba. Baba, my maternal grandmother, had bravely crossed the ocean alone to help her father, my great-grandfather, bring her mother...
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La Maleta: Grief meets a 50-year-old suitcase

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world
It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in.  Many of you know that my Tía Isa passed away a couple of weeks ago. I want to thank all of you who were so kind in sending our family condolences, comfy socks, chicken soup, wine, meal delivery vouchers, and flowers. I so appreciate the love and support. La maleta I’ve been climbing out of the haze by doing all the grown-up things you have to do to settle people’s affairs. Death certificate applications, closing bank accounts – all that official stuff. The real work, though, has been going through the things that my mother and aunt thought were vital. And for that, I had to face la maleta. For as long as I can remember, my mother and Tía Isa told me about the suitcase in the back of their closet. It is a battered hardshell piece of luggage in that Pan Am airlines blue. It has a key on a string and an old belt from the 1970s holding it together. Inside, Ma and Tía kept documents they knew I’d need some day, but also the ones I suspect they couldn’t part with because they told the story of their lives. La maleta had their Cuban passports wrapped in plastic, my grandmother’s welfare id card, Tía’s high school diploma and license as a telegraph operator, my grandparents’ birth certificates from the late 1800s, a prayer and medallion for Santa Barbara. I found my parents’ divorce papers and  prayer cards for...
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A Gift from Tía Isa

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world

Three days ago, I stood in the aisle of my neighborhood Kroger buying baby food for my mother. It was a sobering moment to say the least. Her nausea had worsened, and in desperation, I turned to what I assumed was the easiest food to digest. The good news:  Goya now makes its own line of infant food. I scooped up as many jars of Apples With Guava as I could hold and headed to the register. The bad news: We are running out of time. We’ve been working with the wonderful souls at Heartland Hospice for a couple of months now, so all of us are learning to make room for Death at our elbow. It’s a long exercise in acceptance and forgiveness, as it turns out. That, and endurance. But of all the difficult things, one of the worst is this: When I look at my mother and my tía Isa, who is ailing, too, I can’t imagine the silence of my world without them. All those stories that have shaped me, annoyed me, hurt me, defined me, made me wonder, turned me into a writer…they will stop, and it will be up to me to remember and share. Which is why, perhaps, my aunt –  tía Isa – called me to her bed a week or so ago. She has always been one to surprise me. For example, she bought our first family car – a shocking event immortalized in Tía Isa Wants a Car.  And, if…

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