Have you ever wondered what life is like in Fidel Castro’s Cuba? If you answered yes, I highly recommend reading Teresa Dovalpage’s book: Habanera: A Portrait of a Cuban Family.
Reading it left me in a very bad state of melancholy. I immediately developed a very strong bond with Longina, the adolescent protagonist. She recounts with precision her life. Longina is a teenager like any other, in the midst of national and familial turmoil.
The story is set in the 80s and early 90s. Teresa Dovalpage holds nothing back; she tells it like it is. Thanks to her I have been able to learn so many things and truths about this fascinating country, about their people and about a whole different way of living.
Reality set in for me since I was born a boat ride away from Cuba. I could have easily been a Longina, a child in search of self and yet very dedicated to her values, country and family.
Life in Castro’s Cuba as depicted by Longina took me on some emotional roller-coaster rides. How despicable that some young girls resigned to marrying foreign man old enough to be their dads? Doing so was one way they could leave Cuba in search of a better life.
In Castro’s Cuba, Cubans stood in long lines in order to get rationed food and yet plastic surgery was free for all. Longina’s grandmother, Muñeca, a colorful, vibrant woman and the family matriarch, ended up getting free breast lifts. This repulsed me to no end. People do not have enough to eat, yet the government approves of free plastic surgery.
I shed many tears reading this well-written book. I so wanted Longina to leave Cuba. America is where your dreams can come true. My dreams came true when my mother sent me a visa and I wanted the same for Longina. My desire was for her to go to Miami where she could start life anew.
My heart began to sing joyous melodies when Castro opened Cuban shores, announcing that any Cuban that wanted to take to the sea could without reprisal. But bound by the love of family and country, Longina decided to stay behind.
What will become of Longina? How will she survive? Will the love of country and family ties be enough for her to live a meaningful life?
Habanera a Portrait of a Cuban Family will make you thankful you live in the United States. As a Haitian American, I am well aware of how blessed I am to live in America. All I can say is: God Bless America!