My Uncle Came to Visit from the United States

Nonardo Perea

Pedaling around the city. Photo: Juan Suarez
Pedaling around the city. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — My uncle left six years ago and came to visit some days ago. He came with his wife, who’d managed to leave Cuba only a year ago, through the family sponsorship process.

They’ve come to visit their relatives here. I couldn’t go see him the first day because of the accident I had, though I did speak to him over the phone. He told me he wanted to see me and wouldn’t stop saying he’d brought me a present: a pair of sneakers. When one travels, be it to Japan, Venezuela or Haiti, one has to bring back a present for someone, because everyone in Cuba is in need of something or other. If by any chance you neglect to bring something back from your trip, you are showered with complaints.

I didn’t want anything, though I won’t deny a pair of sneakers wasn’t a bad gift, as I’ve always had trouble finding good footwear. Right now, I only have one pair of sneakers and sandals. I’m happy with just that, I don’t need any more.

In the days that followed, I found out relatives had flocked to my uncle’s wife’s place and that a big scene ensued.

Like in a comedy, everyone started grabbing every gift in sight, without even caring to check the names on the tags.

My uncle was so overwhelmed by this that he didn’t even care what gift went to who. From what my other uncles told me, it was a free-for-all, the kind you see when kids burst a piñata and everyone scrambles to grab what they can.

When I was finally able to walk without much difficulty, I visited my uncle. As soon as he saw me, he told me the sneakers he’d bought for me had disappeared but that I shouldn’t worry, that he’d send me another pair as soon as he got to Texas, which is where he lives.

He only had time to pull out a big cell phone and put it in my hands, to show me some videos. He then went off to have a shower (they’d invited him to a meal and he had to leave). He left me on the couch with the videos of where he works: a supermarket with all kinds of food and fruits. He came out of the bathroom and, between jokes, took back his phone.

I said goodbye, not before hearing from my other relatives how upset they were with my uncle, because his wife had brought all sorts of things for her family, including two flat-screen TVs and he had barely bought food for his own.

My uncle went back to Texas yesterday. I didn’t get to see him again. Now, I’ll sit back and wait for my sneakers to arrive.

2 thoughts on “My Uncle Came to Visit from the United States

  • how can i ship items from canada to cuba , i plan on staying some winters and would like some comfort from home

  • My wife’s Cuban family is probably very different from other Cuban families. Since we ship a monthly care package of medicines, shampoos, shaving razors, etc., when we go to visit, our gift list is a lot shorter. There is no rush to open gifts when we arrive. On the contrary, my wife and I are more excited to give the gifts than it seems they are to receive them. They are very prideful and rightly so. They are honest, college-educated professionals who work hard for very little money through no fault of their own. It makes me sad and angry that these humble people are forced to live under a system that they did not choose. If they could afford to buy decent hair shampoo or quality shaving razors, they would. The Castros don’t want my in-laws to be economically independent. The Castros need for Cubans to stay poor. Independent, well-educated citizens are difficult to repress.

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