Showing posts with label Cubanitas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cubanitas. Show all posts

Happy First Day of December

 I have three days of work left, if talking about the Cold War and playing “Reacting to the Past” games counts as work.

Time to reflect on what worked (playing games in class!) and what didn’t (allowing students to earn points so quickly that some of my strongest students finished the class weeks before Halloween). 

Father's Day Patriot Hunt #6: Two Wills and Also Keep Reading to the Very End

Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” 

- James Joyce, Ulysses

I thought I would be able to write this up more quickly than this, but whatever.  Don't rush me.

I can't help but linger in files looking for data point treasure: the date someone arrived in America, the property distributed in an uncle's will, coats of arms, maps.

This is my happy place, watering the data and giving it some sunshine to make it bloom into a story.
Enough about me.  Back to the Patriot quest.

Meet Ancestor #9: Frederick Kimball (b.1746 North Carolina d. 1812 W. Feliciana Parish La)

Here you go! Meet Lt. Col. Frederick Kimball.

My favorite thing he did was participate in the brawling battle (which included eating the breakfasts the British left behind) at Eutaw Springs - the last major battle in South Carolina -  is credited for denying the British materiel supplies that were headed North.  Six weeks later, the British surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. 

Here is the DAR file and ancestor number!!  PATRIOT #5 

From what I've read (and omg I've been binging on 1780 and it's delicious), Kimball had British prisoners taken to his house.

Here  is Frederick Kimball's father's will.

Benjamin Kimball 1786, Camden South Carolina

Soon after his father's death, Frederick Kimball purchased land in West Florida from Spain (remember, Louisiana territory belonged to Spain after the 7 Years War).

 I cannot tell how he died, but it was months after the US joined the War of 1812.

In the hours I spent pouring over family documents I found a family history written by one of Frederick's grand-nephews that recounts his father growing up a Protestant English speaking family surrounded by French Catholic families.

 I'm pretty sure the thing that brought them together was a mutual hate for the British ("Cajuns" were expelled from Acadiana in 1763 in Canada after the British won the 7 Years War) and a common culture of profiting from using enslaved human labor that fills.

Make sure you are keeping that in mind as you imagine the multilingual multicultural 19th Century Louisiana.

Here is a quick map and a few images of the Acadian Diaspora.

Please imagine their feelings toward the British as they were forced from their farms and churches and land and we will circle back to that later, OK?

Kimball's new land in West Feliciana Parish is near  Avoyelles Parish, ground zero for this story because it's where Ella Mae English will be born in 1872.

Let's now look at Frederick Kimball's wife -- Sarah McDonald (b. 1751 South Carolina, d. 1807 West Feliciana Parish, La).

I have a hunch that a war hero might marry a daughter who's father also fought in the war (and on the same side, hopefully).  

Bingo. PATRIOT #6

Daniel McDonald (b 1723 Scotland, d 1797 SC) has a DAR ancestor number, but no clear indication of how he served.

I'll keep searching for that, but until then I'm going to imagine that his family's fortunes were abundant and he liked fighting the British.

Here is Daniel McDaniel's 1797 Will -- I would not assign it if I didn't think it was crucial for you to read it.

 Read it twice.

Then go back and read Benjamin Kimble's will.

Maybe read them both again and take notes.

We can discuss it later.

Until then, I have a few more Patriots to unload on you. 

PS because you are still reading this, here is a bonus. The Last Will and Testament of Daniel McDonald's FATHER (b 1700 Inverness, Scotland d 1756 South Carolina), veteran of the 7 Years War.


Wait wait, I have one more thing to show you then let's review the big point of this whole chapter.

 Donald McDonald didn't even come here on purpose!! He was transported away from the British Isles as punishment for being a Jacobite.

Let go of any idea you had that everyone in history who came to America came here by choice.

 The actions people took and the decisions they made based on displacement will play a crucial role in the forming of an American ("white American" there I said it) identity.

Jumping into the Sky

(From 12/4/08)

"Mommy?" she calls to me from around corner.

I am upside down on the yoga ball, ignoring Lou Dobbs Tonight.

She finds me, then asked, "Is today one year since Tata...?"

I wait a beat to see if she's really asking what I think she's asking. When she only blinks at me, I take a deep breathe, give her another second still, then offer up, "....jumped into the sky????"

She nods, then tilts her head. "Let go of the grass!"

"Let go of the grass?" I understand it immediately.

When someone dies, gravity reverses.

The body that held them here and kept them from being part of the universe suddenly stops, and they let go of the grass and fall back into God.


"Oh Zoe! I wish I'd thought of that! If I say that you said that, can I write it?"

She nods, I get my pen.

 Instead of just letting me jot down that line, she follows me and continues her story.

"One night Tata came to me and we were laying on our backs under a Palm Tree, looking at stars. She put her arm around me and pointed up, and said, 'Zoeita, see the stars? Those stars are angels, and when we die, we become one.' And after that, she hugged me."

I nod, not looking at her, still trying to write "let go of the grass" in my journal in a meaningful way, so that no one looking through my pages would think I was writing a to-do list.

Across I line I scribble, jumping into heaven, let go of grass, Zoe, 12/1, upside down on yoga ball.

"And THEN she let go of the grass?" I ask Zoe, ready to listen more carefully to her story.

"No, Mom, she hugged me that night and she's never let me go."

"Tata never jumped off the grass?"

Zoe shakes her head, "No, she never jumped off the grass! She's with me!"

"Abuela is with YOU? So she didn't jump into the sky? She didn't let go of the grass?"

Zoe shook her head. "Nope, neither."

"Fine. You're saying I was wrong about the jumping into the sky?"

She nods, solemnly, patting me on the arm.

I turn back to my journal and start to cross out what I'd written, then stop.

I get my Mac, turn it on, and with Zoe tucked under my left arm, type this story one-handed, grateful for the fantastic mystery of it all.

Love, Money, Things to Do

My earliest memory of Abuelo is him saying “nariz!” “nose!” “ojos!” “eyes!” “cara!” “face” – I must have been all of four years old, sitting on an itchy red blanket, trying desperately to please the man who greeted me at the airport with a secret bag of M&M’s that I didn’t have to share with anybody.

His Spanish lessons didn’t fall on the most fertile soil because I also learned from his visits and from our many visits to relatives in Miami that that Spanish was the language of adults. Spanish was the language of stories “I wouldn’t understand” and things I shouldn’t interrupt.   My Spanish was (is) so atrocious (despite passing college Spanish) (despite passing PhD level reading comps in Spanish, y'all) that my Abuela – whose English was broken at best – begged me to only speak English to her.

So maybe I didn’t learn Spanish from Abuelo.

I learned other things.

I learned to be useful. 

Abuelo came from Cuba to the US in the 1930s and went to business school in New Orleans then returned to Cienfuegos to join his father in the almacen he owned. For most of my life I thought “almacen” meant store but when I returned from my first trip to Cuba with pictures and asked why his store had no windows he explained it was a warehouse. Abuelo’s father bought barrels and large lots of things like oil and flour and turned them into smaller sized offerings which they then sold to smaller rural stores out of the city.   

With their profits the family joined the Cienfuegos Yacht Club and built their dream home in Playa Alegre. With all that said, Abuelo was clearly a member of the capitalist class that Castro targeted for elimination.

 I knew when Abuelo fled from Cuba in 1960 during the time that businesses and properties were being nationalized under the reform laws. He started a small store in uptown New Orleans where the family worked and lived until the second time an armed robbery convinced them that being a small business owner right there and then, was an unacceptable risk.    Risky financial situations were not OK for a man who had in the last four years lost his father (heart attack), his business and his dream home in Playa Alegre, Cienfuegos.

Risks like “staying open after being robbed at gunpoint” were not OK for a man responsible for supporting a family in New Orleans (wife, three kids, and Cuca, who is family we can’t explain, and also cooked) and the family he left behind  which included his mother Emilia, his unwed sister Lourdes, his sister  Josefina (whose husband was in jail) and her four kids JulioJose, Teresita, Eduardo, Miriam.

When he left in 1960, everyone expected the “Castro situation” in Cuba would end quickly.

It did not. 

Abuelo worked at GE (General Electric) in the mail room for 20 solid years of his life.  I have heard family rumors that once upon a time he received mail sent slyly to GE that he brought home and was meant to forward to a friend who would whatever whatever and it had to do with the Bay of Pigs. But my young uncle, 5 or 6 at the time, opened the letter and I’m still not sure how the story ends with it being resealed or Abuelo meeting with the CIA handlers he never told me about.  

I admire that he chose to be useful, even in that small quiet way.

I don’t blame Abuelo for retiring as soon as he hit his 20 years with GE.  He lost everything twice and kept going, collected his pension, left New Orleans and moved to Pompano Beach to be closer to his daughter and his sister Josephina who escaped Cuba with three of her children.   To this day I cannot imagine the torture they faced in leaving her other son Julio Jose  -- who was of military age and couldn’t leave – behind.  He joined us after the Mariel Boatlift 1980, but that’s for another story. Stick with me here.

Even after retirement, my Abuelo could not stop working.

He had to be useful.

 He worked in our family hibiscus farm, he clipped articles and advertisements for corporations, he volunteered at hospitals and never stopped taking care of his family in Cuba.

The hardest years of his life were the ones that came after Abuela jumped into the sky in 2007.  It wasn’t unexpected but it was a shock to the root of his being and he spent the next ten years yearning for her, yearning for his mom, yearning for somehow feeling home again.

Hard times and increasing challenges didn’t stop Abuelo from working.

 In his last years he was too frail, too exhausted to continue his 40 and 50 hour week volunteering at a hospital. He could no longer safely drive, no longer safely handle getting and sorting and counting his medicine and dealing with housekeeping alone, and reluctantly moved to a gated community full of active and also much less active and quite invisible “older Americans.”

 I’m not sure but I think he might have been the first Cuban guy there. I did hear from a most reliable source that when he was served lasagna and he said it was “la mierda” and the staff giggled and thanked him for teaching him how to say lasagna in Spanish. So there’s that.

In his last years, despite degenerating eyesight and arthritic hands, Abuelo was driven to contribute, driven to make money, driven to win the lottery, driven every day to get up and do something good.   

Abuelo made pictures.

He didn’t paint them, he didn’t print them.

No. That would cost money and cut into his profit.

He was an entrepreneur, not an artist.

 For hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years, my Abuelo flipped through page after page of glossy magazines and catalogs tearing out the best pictures. 

After that he would  place the pictures in one of many assorted consignment-store-bargain frames my mom brought him.  He then sent boxes of framed pictures to nephews and daughters and friends who offered the framed picture for sale at flea markets and etc. and brought Abuelo back envelopes of cold hard cash.

I cannot tell you exactly how or where or even if the hundreds and hundreds of framed pictures sold, but I can tell you this: Abuelo never ran out of two things: love, money, and things to do – clearly a legacy worth emulating.


Teller Amendment:

"The Teller Amendment was between Canada and Cuba and had nothing to do with the Americas."

Where all the Eclairs Went

Zoe is walking out the door to school, turns around and goes back to the kitchen to get a big box of eclairs.

I watch, and maybe perhaps probably raise a pre-dawn judging eye.

Her: What? they're for polysaccharide Thursday.

Me: Polysaccharide Thursday?

Her. Polysaccharide Thursday mom. I bet you don't know what a polysaccharide is.

Me: It's a sugar.

Her: No (sigh) it isn't, I love you.

Me (to the closed door, but not too loudly): Yeah? Well I can name all of Henry the 8th's wives!

And with that she left, taking every single one of the eclairs with her.

Haiti is near Cuba OR they are near France

I asked my World Civ class a question I have never asked in a pretest before: Where is Haiti?

Here is *all* of their answers, sorted alphabetically:

An island off the southeast coast of Florida. 
Borders Jamaica in the Caribbean. 
Caribbean Island; it’s capital is Port a Prince. 
Next to Cuba. 
Haiti is a small island between Santo Domingo. 
Haiti is an island below Florida, off the coast of South America. 
Haiti is close to Guatamala 
Haiti is in South America. 
Haiti is located in South Africa 
Haiti is near Cuba OR they are near France because they speak Frenchish. 
Haiti is on an island which it shares with Dominican Republic. 
Haiti is on an island 
Haiti is on the east coast of South America. 
Haiti is right next to Jordan in the Middle East. 
Haiti is south of Florida, in the Virgin Islands 
I never hear about Haiti, but I guess it’s in Mexico. 
I think it’s on the border of Europe. 
In the Atlantic Ocean somewhere. 
In the Caribbean. 
Island near Africa 
It is an island in/near Caribbean. 
It is near Europe And Africa. 
It’s next to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. 
It’s one of the islands in the Caribbean. 
Middle of Nowhere. 
Next to Dominican Republic (Hispanola).  
 In the Caribbean. 
Next to Honduras. 
On an island that connects with Dominican Republic. 
On the island of Hispaniola, between Cuba and Puerto Rico. 
Same island as the Dominican Republic. San Salvador? 
Shares an island with the Dominican Republic. Caribbean. 
South of the US.
On an island. By Jamaica? 
The other half of Costa Rica or Jamaica