Irina Echarry 

Ever since I was a little girl I imagined myself not having legs, or at least having difficulty walking.  Then — when they discovered I was myopic in the right eye, raising the possibility of temporary blindness — something that could happen suddenly and that I couldn’t avoid or prevent.

There I was getting ready as if preparing for the game of the day when something terrible happened: a tumor somewhere in my body or an accident left me with manual limitations.

Nothing.  Each of us has our morbid notions, but it’s curious, I’d never imagined myself without hands or lacking the ability to move them.

My hands are so important that I can’t conceive of myself without them.  I learned how to carve wood when I was around 20, and while I used a blade to give form to an acana, jiqui or quiebrahacha trunk, I became a more docile, a more contemplative human being – more involved with the inner me.

When I carved, my thoughts flew.  My mind was active, but I could go hours without talking, though that worried my mother a lot.

One fine day I decided to quit doing it.  Until that moment I had only carved wood that I had found or that was given to me, but gradually this became difficult and I sold some of my pieces in order to survive.  That was the first leap into the world of business, which was something I wasn’t prepared for.  I didn’t have the right material conditions or the intention of becoming any kind of production machine.

Later I learned how to knit: needles and thread made up for the lack of wood.  To devise some kind of application, I practiced the stitches that stimulated my concentration.  While I knitted, in addition to counting the stitches I would think of what I wanted to make – but not only in terms of the fabric; I would also consider what would help me to create later on.

From those magic moments in which I would connect with my deepest being, ideas were born for two children books.  Neither of them has been published, but I still have hope.

Meanwhile I continue knitting.  Difficult times accompany us (when haven’t they?) so sometimes I manage to sell a handbag.  I do it — though I’m not good at handling sales — but I attempt it even if it’s not my objective.  I use the fabric to create, to understand and know myself better, to give things to my friends, to create beautiful things with my hands…while I can still move them.


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

One thought on “The Importance of Hands

  • Your work it lovely, Irina! If I could, I would sell your little bags in my store in Canada…maybe one day.
    ~ Jenny

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