My Nostalgia for Santa Clara

Elio Delgado Legon

Bandstand at Leoncio Vidal park in Santa Clara. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés
Bandstand at Leoncio Vidal park in Santa Clara. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES – Located in the heart of Cuba, Santa Clara city has just turned 327 years old on July 15th, founded in 1689. First, it was the capital of the Las Villas province and today it’s the capital of the Villa Clara province.

I can’t remember the first time I came into contact with this beautiful city, as I was born in its maternity hospital; but I remember the second time I came very well, 13 years later, as my parents had taken me for my maternal grandfather’s funeral.

Since then, I’ve regularly been in touch with the city of Santa Clara and I have a lot of memories of this place: some very happy, others sad. However, they all stir up all kinds of nostalgia inside me when I begin to remember my relationship with the city.

I remember nostalgically the day I sat in an entrance exam at the Professional Trade School, which was located in an old wooden barracks of a house near the train station. I remember my disappointment when I went to go see the exam results and I found a phrase that struck me when I saw it next to my name: passed without a place. The school was only authorized to take on 30 students and 35 had passed the exam. Luckily, somebody pulled some strings and they let the five remaining students register. That was a very happy day.

I have a special nostalgia for the sunsets at Leoncio Vidal park, the city’s main park, a time when thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of birds used to come and settle down on the park’s trees getting ready to sleep and they used to make such a racket that it was all you could hear and it used to penetrate through you, even through your pores.

I remember I went to a few open-air concerts at the park’s bandstand, where we were all livened up by the municipal band and I remember how the locals would move around it, making a circle that was divided into two: on the inside, nearest the band, white people were dancing and on the outside, black and mestizo people were dancing. It was one of the clearer manifestations of the racial discrimination that reigned in this era.

The old provincial court where emergency hearings took place. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés
The old provincial court where emergency hearings took place. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés

I lived a lot of tense and anxious moments in this city too, which I will never forget: all the times the police took me prisoner to the station where I waited for the emergency court to pass my sentence. One of those times, I was kept at the provincial jail for a whole week.

I’ve left one of the saddest moments of my life till last, which I also lived in Santa Clara. My son was only two months old when he got seriously sick with a stomach infection which resulted in acute meningitis. I’ve never been able to forget the moment that the doctor, sat in front of the crib where my son laid unconscious, and told me that he wasn’t sure whether my son would make it to the morning.

I left that room with a heavy load of sadness in my heart that crushed me and I sat on the stairs and cried. It was the only thing I could do at that moment. I don’t know how long I sat there, but when I came back into the room, the doctor was sitting next to my son giving him spoonfuls of water and medicine. They were like that the whole night until dawn, when he saw that my son was reacting positively to the treatment. The doctor then went to rest but he gave me his phone number so I could call him in case we needed to.

I can’t remember the name of that doctor who saved my son’s life because it’s been 54 years now, but I’d like to dedicate this article to him and to all those Cuban doctors who devote their lives to saving the lives of others, in Cuba and in so many other countries across the world.

3 thoughts on “My Nostalgia for Santa Clara

  • Always enjoy reading your post Elio, may not agree with you but you do share some amazing experiences.

  • Nice story. Elio is at his best when he sticks to waxing nostalgic about days gone by. He fails miserably when he ignorantly ventures into politics.

  • Thank you Elio for an interesting and touching article. All of us who are parents can empathize with you sitting on the stairs and crying, children are so significant in our lives.
    My late brother was a family physician and following his death there was a flood of letters from former patients to a local newspaper, recording gratitude for incidents of the type you described. We all share humanity!

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