Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Island is an Island: Chapter 9: Down the Hill

Mom's cousin, the one with my Abuela's eyes, arrives at Tia Lourdes house just as we were saying our goodbyes. She is there to escort us to the hotel and guide me through my first "walking the streets of Cienfuegos" experience.

 I felt very chaperoned and I enjoy this.

We stepped out the huge door and onto a wide covered sidewalk, crossed the street and walked down a French Quarter replica of a street lined with tired tall dignified store and door fronts.

There are places where the sidewalk narrows and I walk within hairs of quiet stooped people stationed on their own front steps.  We are too close to say anything but buenos dias while looking down and away.

 I missed a hundred chances to take pictures for you of the faces, the streetcar path, the architecture. My favorite picture that I didn't take for you on the street  that day was three shirtless boys playing improvised baseball in the middle of the street with a stick and a rock.  But I couldn't whip out a camera, that felt rude and invasive.

Bad enough that I was sporting a swinging blonde bob, a huge red faux leather purse that only cost $22 at Marshall's but looks divine. What I'm trying to say is that the people were staring at ME, the stranger passing through, so I kept moving.

We came to a spot where the old road turns steeply down a hill and disappears. It looks and feels like turn of the century San Francisco. At least, I imagine it does; if I ever make it to California, I'll let you know.

Then my Mom points out the Mercado on one side of the street, a semi-enclosed old market which was which was quiet and closed because it was Sunday.

And there, she says, there it is. Your grandfather's store, your Great Grandfather's Almacen. Mom's cousin pats my hand and nods. She remembers it, too.

There it is, two tall stories high, dignified. There is what they built, what was taken away.

There it is. I don't know whether to be sad or proud.

My Mom crosses the street so she can take a good picture of me in front of the building.  She takes several of them so we get one that will please Abuelo, as if seeing a picture of his granddaughter in front of his building would bring some closure, some help.

 Later that night and again when I get home I look at those pictures and think I don't look proud or sad standing there.

I just look very very American.