A Visit by a Cuban

Osmel Almaguer

Old Havana photo by Elio Delgado.

When I got there I found him conversing peacefully with my father in his front room. At first I didn’t recognize him, so I said hi somewhat indifferently.

My father, realizing my oversight, said to me with great pleasure: “But it’s Tony! Don’t you remember him?” Only then did I begin hugging him with sincere happiness, though in the past we hadn’t been the best of friends.

He was a little heavier, though not a lot, but now he had gray hair; in that respect he had indeed seemed to have aged too much in only two years, though his spirit bubbled more than ever.

He spoke confidently, like someone who comes with the truth in hand. Soon after I realized that he had achieved his plans of immigrating to the Unites States along with his family.

Tony, like they always called him around here, came to visit the rest of his relatives, see his friends and, maybe, again breathe the air of what was always his home.

Born and raised a few yards from my house, he had spent his life raising cows, driving a tractor for the City Services Department, cutting grass and tending to gardens.

I had a lot of questions for him, but the time he had left was very limited since he still had to see a number of friends and it was already getting dark.

He told us about the main aspects of the new way of life that he and his family were experiencing. He also talked some about his job with a park maintenance crew there in Tampa, the city where they live.

His wife has a job cleaning floors in a restaurant. He spoke to us with pride about how she now works in much better conditions that when she did it here, and that must be true; I still remember her mopping the hall at my school, almost without water and with poor equipment.

Both of their daughters work in a restaurant, and though they don’t earn a lot in wages, they make enough to get by on tips. The older one receives about $5,000 dollars annually for her small son (who was born in Cuba, by the way).

Their greatest fortune is that they have been able to stay together and struggle, each one contributing what they can to the family budget.

Their combined wages are low, it’s true, but between all of them they’re able to maintain their home in good condition, feed themselves adequately, go out from time to time and, in short, lead a life that is tranquil even if it is without luxuries. At the moment all of them are enjoying something very important, good health.

It’s likely they’ll never end up realizing the “American dream,” but at least they haven’t had such bad luck as other emigrants I’ve read about.

In his neighborhood there in the US, no one talks about Cuba or politics. I imagine a life different from what the Cuban media presents to us here as the American nightmare.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

One thought on “A Visit by a Cuban

  • Interesting piece.

    Though my first read of this left (US) Republicanism ringing in my ears,

    thinking twice I can see how he could be commenting on the way too heavy hand of the press on the “socialist” island.

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