The Carpenter from Ciego de Avila

By Osmel Almaguer

Ciego de Avila Province, map by Wikimedia Commons
Ciego de Avila Province, map by Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago, a carpenter used to work alongside our house.  With my father’s consent, he set up a little workshop there and paid us 400 pesos a month (about $16 USD) as rent.

Over time the carpenter became friends with my father, who then reduced his rate to 300 pesos. Looking back though, neither the initial charge nor the later one was a big deal; my father couldn’t do much with that amount of money, which in turn didn’t amount to more than a tiny fraction of the workshop’s earnings.

Nevertheless, to Ubiel (that’s what the carpenter was called) it didn’t seem like enough of a discount, so he began to press my father to lower the rent to 200 pesos.  This was when we began to question his intentions.  My father told him that if it didn’t agree with the rate he could move.

Ubiel stormed off looking for another place to set up, but didn’t find anything.  Returning with crocodile tears, he hugged my dad saying he was “his father,” asking him for forgiveness.

My father, noble, as always, consented to let him stay.  Over time the incident was brushed to the side, though by then we knew what type of person the carpenter was.

I remember that my father – half joking – told him, “You’re all same,” referring to the lack of seriousness that, in his opinion, was characteristic of people from Ciego de Avila known asavileños.

Located in the center of Cuba, it became a province of its own with the last political-administrative division that took place in the mid-1970s.

But Ubiel was not totally bad; he had some of the good features characteristic of country people: his naturalness, hospitality and good sense of humor.

I think this was why on one of his trips he made to his province to look for wood for the shop, he invited me to accompany him, to get to know his region and his family.  That adventure is a subject for another occasion though.

I believe that for his virtues – though we didn’t love him, but accepted him among us – we ended up missing him when he emigrated to the United States.


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.

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