Monday, July 30, 2012

The Other Lady, There All Along

My son commented the other day on my profile picture.

He hates it. Who is that crazy man I'm posing next to? Looks creepy to him.

It's me and Jose Marti, I remind him.

 I'm sure I've told them more Cuban  history than most children can tolerate.

Every bit of it seems to fall out my son's ears like water through a colander.

I remind him that I took a picture with a torso-sized Jose Marti statue while I was in Cuba, a trip that now seems to have occurred 5 years ago, not three months ago.

What's so great about Jose Marti, he asks, and from experience I'm guessing I have ten seconds to hook him.

Jose Marti  loved Cuba but bad things were going on, so he left and came to the US where he  travelled up and down the US organizing Cubans and inspiring them to fight to liberate their country from being a Spanish colony.

Some people think he's a great Cuban, but I also think he's an amazing American, a warrior for justice and freedom.

I lost my son at that point, and let the story go.

I'm sure if I would have had some Andrew Jackson-esque battles to re-enact for him our conversation would have gone longer. But he left me there, sitting with Jose Marti on my mind.

So I started scrolling through my iPhone looking back at the pictures from my trip.  It seemed I took so many pictures, way too many pictures, but now they don't seem to be enough.

I scroll back a little further in my phone pictures and see the pictures of bags in my office from students to Veterans.

 Then there are pictures of Zoe and her science project and then some other pictures from when tis iPhone used to be my Dad's phone.

Lots of pictures of hibiscus.

Smiling people, some I recognize, some I don't.

Because my kids are ignoring me I keep playing in the iPhone, happy for a minute free of interrogation (WHEN are we going to eat? WHAT are we going to eat? WHEN are we going to go? WHERE are we going to go? WHAT are we doing after that, after that, after the other thing?).  I'm surprised to recognize so many of the places my parents visited, although it looks different from my Dad's eyes.

My cousin, the cute physician, smiles brightly and warmly for my father. I didn't think I had a picture of her, and it's good to see her again. I keep going through, recognizing face after face, place after place. This is fun. In my Dad's Cuba, there are more pictures of people doing things, standing by things.   Less architecture, more group pictures, posed.

And then I get to a picture I don't recognize. At all.

Its from the one place I didn't have time to visit other than driving through.

Plaza Marti, named for my favorite guy.  There's a picture of my Mom standing next to it.

Only, I can't stop looking because I can't be seeing what I'm seeing.

On the pedestal, raised up about a story high, is Jose Marti.

 If you google his statue in Cienfuegos, that's what you'll see. Jose Marti, raised up.

 In an artistically symbolic way this makes sense because Marti was killed before setting foot back on Cuban soil for the revolution he helped organize and launch.  His leadership was mostly moral, spiritual, inspirational. As a soldier he lasted mere hours but his words linger for centuries.

But on the ground, standing there guarding him, as large and wonderful as him, is a lovely lady I recognized immediately.

No one told me I would find her sitting so boldly in Cuba, but  I forgive them. Maybe they didn't recognize her themselves, maybe they've been given an intentional blind spot in their history and it keeps perpetuating in their stories. 

But seeing this there is no ignoring the truth.

There she was, in her robes, I knew her immediately. 

There, in Cienfuegos, Cuba, was Lady Liberty, symbol of the Republic, symbol of freedom, justice and rule by law.  

The Cuban Republic was born in 1902, only about 15 years after the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City.   This image was no accident; its a permanent reminder of a friendly neighbor who is permanently tied to Cuba, her history and future.

 She's been there all along, standing at the base of his statue, clearly representing the depth of US and Cuban ties and sympathies for generations, written in stone.