From Dust to Gold

By Fabiana del Valle

“The glory of participating,” you say to yourself, “Do you want to achieve glory? Be better known than any of your ancestors? Be the best-known Valle, immortalized through a heroic action for you? What is glory?”, you meditate.  -“Dust and Gold” by Julio Travieso

HAVANA TIMES – My first toys were books. Mom often tells how one time before I was one year old I got tired of playing with the junk she had. Desperate because she had not made progress in the housework, she went to my father’s bookshelf and took one of the thicker volumes.

She thought that the poor book was not going to finish the day well, at that moment she did not care about the fate of the book, she urgently needed to buy time. She managed to keep me entertained for hours and the book ended up unscathed, becoming one of my favorite toys.

I learned to read when I was four years old. I don’t remember the details of course. According to what I’ve been told I would ask the sound of the consonants and on my own I would begin to practice it with the vowels until I could form words.

At nine I read The Two Captains (Dva kapitana) by Veniamín Aleksandrovich Kaverin. Given my immaturity I lost many details of the plot, but it opened my appetite as a reader and I began to devour every book I could get my hands on.

On several occasions my father was forced to hide a book that was not suitable for my precocious age. Those, the forbidden ones, I tracked down and read later hidden under the bed.

It was at the age of eleven after exploring the fascinating world of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien that my desire to write awakened. I dreamed of creating novels that captivated the reader, falling in love with the feeling of the words and the color of my brushes.

I was young and hopeful to the point that he envisioned a golden future: Recognized artist and storyteller, respected both in galleries and in writers’ guilds!

Growing up takes a lot of willpower and each of my writings ended up collecting dust in the drawer. Being part of the art world can be difficult in a country where opportunities for new generations are increasingly scarce.

I chickened out, I lost the courage to make each of my dreams come true. The seasons passed so quickly without my understanding that then it would be too late. Devoured by the economic situation, by being a mother and father at the same time, by letting the circumstances of an island undermine my goals, I punished myself.

I am not going to waste the creative talent that my father bequeathed to me, like Javier Valle, the last of the clan on the Island, the main character in the book The Dust and Gold by Julio Travieso.

Javier was a mature historian who graduated from Yale, who, during the pre-revolutionary period, investigated the history of his family and actively participated in the insurrection against Batista to end up being shot for realizing that he had not fought against one dictatorship to fall into another.

For the moment I remain dodging bullets in front of the wall, sure of my ideas. I have stripped every word, canvas, and brush of dust. My present has become a race against time to conquer a golden future.

Pushed by the bodyguards, he stumbled to the wall, where they placed him in front of six soldiers, small, dark, all alike, similar to the lead figures of his childhood. Then he was afraid of a death that in his life was never something so immediate and that now became real, true. The presence of death, a cold blast of air, made him tremble. “Our Father who art in heaven,” he prayed silently.  –“Dust and Gold” by Julio Travieso

Read more from the diary of Fabiana del Valle here.

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