We are at the foot of the crypt that contains the remains of my Abuela’s mother.
There you are, I repeat back to my Mom, standing in front of tomb I decided immediately was the oldest and most interesting thing I’ve ever been related to and responsible for.
There is no time, no room, and no cadence here in my short love story for Cienfuegos to explain the intimate story I’ll tell you in the book. Trust me, that part you haven’t read and the part you have read will come together beautifully and on target like a Hail Mary pass right here in the story.
I look at the names as if I might recognize one. The markers show names and dates for a couple of people but I only really understand three - Abuela’s mother, Abuela’s brother, Abuela's grandmother.
I make a mental note to later research how her family landed her in Cuba, the Grand Central Station of the Caribbean.
For now, standing here is enough. My eyes are thirsty for the art, for the view of the sky.
A touristy looking couple enters the cemetery. The matron tells them they only have five minutes, that they were there yesterday.
I giggle, wondering if she’s worried they will steal all the history.
Then something tugs at my eyes like a kid pulls on my hand or a trumpet blaring right in my ear.
What’s that, on that grave? I say this out loud but Mom is talking to her cousin and I’m really asking myself.
I quietly continue to be pulled into the hunt.
Look, its there. And there, and over there on that one, just where the Fleur-de-lis would be, if this were a New Orleans cemetery.
I ask my cousin, what’s that? But she doesn’t know.
She’s lived on this island her whole life, how could she not have noticed it?
We get back in Machete’s taxi, ready for the next cemetery.
This time, rolling back through the same neighborhood, I see graffiti “Patria o Muerte” in white on a rusted metal fence; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that picture in Google searches for “Cuban Revolution” but if not that exact signs, then other signs like it, part of the revolutionary slogan, “Patria o Muerte, Venceremos – Fatherland or Death, We will Win.”
Fatherland or death. What a sham, what an empty threat. We all die anyway.
I look for more slogans about socialism’s grand (eventual) triumph and take a few pictures of them for you.
I also take pictures of a few delicious antique cars, but I miss more than I take because Machete was far more interested in dominating the traffic to cater to my photography whims.
To punish me for protesting missing taking a shot of an exceptionally gorgeous Eisenhower-era baby blue Cadillac Machete stopped his car RIGHT next to a pre-Missile Crisis car where a couple was sitting with the window down.
He rolled my window down and told me to take my shot.
Inches away from my window the man in the other car (I only see men driving cars in Cuba; was it me or is this true?) looks right into my face like “what the hell?” and I duck down like a teenager that has been found stalking a crush.
After leaving the minivan taxi there just long enough to make me blush Machete pulls away and rolls my window up.
I look at the house we are next to. There it is, that same thing I saw in the cemetery. I take a picture. And there, and there, and there too. So many I can’t take pictures.
I thought I came here to celebrate an answer and now a new riddle has found me.
I go from zero to obsessed.
The day only gets better from there.