Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Recently, I paid a three-day visit to my hometown, Santo Domingo, in the province of Villa Clara, to see relatives and old friends. The trip also made me remember incidents and situations that would begin to mark me since I was small.
I visited the place I lived in from the age of 7, until I was 12. It was a hovel with yagua leave walls and a guano roof, similar to those built by pre-Colombian natives. My father had built it on a narrow corner of the farm my maternal grandfather had been renting since he was young, where all of his children had been born. This corner of the farm was next to the road and about a hundred meters from the central railroad line.
I went into the hovel. Only the path where the railroad once was remained, as well as the hill where I – and other children my age – would slide down for hours on end, sitting on palm tree leaves. It was a silly game, but, having no toys, it was a way to pass the time and have fun.
Nearly 70 years have passed and, even though the hill seems smaller to me now, it is still there, between the path and the railroad line. Sitting on the hilltop, I bring to mind many memories from that time. I never understood, and still don’t understand, why my uncle, who ran the farm, never gave my father the opportunity to work part of the land, at least to grow our food, as the farm had areas of unused land. Perhaps it was the egotism and lack of solidarity that reigned in that society.
Sitting on the hill of my childhood, I recalled how, very nearby, next to the road, a young couple had built a wooden home and painted it all white. A few months later, the young woman was pregnant and, when the delivery date came around, she was taken to the hospital in the province, whence she came back with her baby. Later, she came down with a fever and, since there was no gynecologist to examine her nearby, it was too late when she was finally taken to the hospital. Never again would that merry white house open its doors.
I also recalled how my grandfather, who had gone blind, would come over with his walking stick so that my mother would apply drops of lemon juice on his eyes, as he claimed that cleared up his sight. He may have had cataracts, but there was no ophthalmologist to examine and give him an operation, and, when he died, he was completely blind.
On the other side of the railroad line, the thousand-year-old carob tree I would sit under to meditate and let my imagination soar is still standing.
I recalled how, one bad day, my uncle told us he had sold his share of the farm to move and work at the provincial capital and that we had to look for another place to live in, as the new owner didn’t want anyone living in the farm. I would never see my grandfather alive again, for he passed away some time later.
I recalled many other things that would make this story far too long. I can’t fail to mention a friend who would tell me with many things through gestures and signs I didn’t understand. He was deaf and dumb and never had the opportunity, available today, to go to a special school to learn to read and write in sign language.
These are some of the many childhood memories I wanted to share with the readers of Havana Times.