Rosa Martinez

Photo: Ania Krupotow

HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago, Gissel, my youngest daughter, brought a classmate home to spend the Saturday with our family.

As it was the first time she had visited us, we decided to prepare a decent lunch, within our possibilities of course.

Danielita, that’s the name of her friend, shared not only some delicious black beans, chicken stew and some super-sweet guavas, but also stories of her family, especially of her younger brother, who is quite a wild kid from what she told us.

The girl gave us a really good impression of herself. Although it’s still too early to say we know her, she showed herself to be organized, obedient and very affectionate.

Gissel showed her our entire house, from the corner where she keeps old junk such as dolls, bottles and jewels – according to her – to my beloved bookcase. She told her about how badly we suffered when Hurricane Sandy nearly tore off the roof of our house, and she also mentioned how hard it has been to get back on our feet; highlighting the fact that after Sandy, we haven’t even been able to go on trips anywhere, since all funds have gone to the repairs.

She also showed our visitor family photos, especially those of her birthdays – she does that with everyone who comes to the house.

“I have never celebrated my birthday,” Daniela suddenly said, while she looked at the photos from my daughter’s 5th birthday in great detail.

“Maybe you did when you were very little, but you don’t remember,” I told her while I, unsuccessfully, tried to take the album away from my girl.

“No, no, I have never celebrated my birthday, it’s true,” she answered.

“Well, a party as such isn’t so important, maybe your parents weren’t able to give you one because they are very tangled up, life in Cuba is very hard, we don’t always have enough money to even eat,” I told her.

“But, I’m sure that on your birthday they have taken you to the park, to eat a pizza, no?”

She looked at me frowning, and I was left in that moment without any defence.

Without knowing what else to say, I explained: “My dear, clearly birthdays are a special day, because it’s the day you came into this world, but we don’t need a party, a trip somewhere or something extraordinary to celebrate it. The only thing we need is to be alive, and if you are with your family or friends then that’s even better, but the important thing is that you will always exist.”

Daniela looked at me puzzled and changed the conversation.

And the horse in the photo, is it yours? she asked.


Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

2 thoughts on “Between stories and photos…

  • Thank you for giving us this delightful insight into the life of an ordinary Cuban family.

  • For those innocent about the average living standards in Cuba, it should be explained that Cubans put a high priority on feeding and clothing their children and many get a cake decorated with much icing sugar to celebrate birthdays.
    Parents can be seen walking or cycling balancing an iced cake on one hand. The family gather around and sing a chorus of ‘Happy birthday’, the child cuts the cake and pieces are distributed. Few if any presents are ever given as they just don’t have the resources.

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