Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No Island is An Island* Chapter 2: Miss Cienfuegos

Thanks to years of practicing our line-maneuvering skills at Walt Disney World, my Mom and I are among the first to leave the airport.

We open a small, opaque door and on the other side find ourselves facing a large, restrained, tame mob.

 I follow my Mom into the crowd keeping my eyes down a little because I didn't exactly know who to look for. The faces look familiar, not because I know them, but because they could be anywhere I've been.

A woman with warm brown eyes hugs me.

She feels like my Abuela, and I realize this is Abuela's niece. 

I hug and kiss her and the men she brings me to meet and I say the right things, the same things I would say if introduced in the US, except I have to speak Spanish and I'm wearing flat shoes.

Hola! (hug, turn to kiss, kiss other cheek) Mucho gusto! Encantada!

A beautiful woman presses wrapped flowers into my arms and I can't help myself but laugh with delight over being so welcomed and proclaim that Abuelo always wanted me to be "Miss Cienfuegos" and here I am. We laugh and quickly I  feel at home.

Except at home I wouldn't get flowers and of course at home there aren't names with all these "Y's" everywhere.

 When the Soviet influence arrived in Cuba in 1960, the Soviets spelled Cuba "KYBA," introducing the awesome letter "y" to Cuba, where it then popped up in a generation of names including but not limited to Yamila, Yaisy, Ygor, Yvan, Yasser, Yoana, Joelvys, Yesidria, Mayulis and Mariselysis.

In the quiet that comes as we join the crowd to wait patiently for the gifts and people coming off the plane from Miami, I take a deep breath.

The heavy wet Caribbean air feels the same in Cuba as it does in South Florida.

I look up at the inky night. Same stars, same clouds.

Maybe Cuba isn't that different, not anymore, I wonder for a second and that thought stays with me until I turn and look around me some more and see a fat roll of sharp shiny barbed wire lines menacingly tangled on and around the roof of the airport.