The picture is of my grandmother. It’s the only type they took in those days. In the photo she’s 16, and alongside her fiancé, on their wedding day. Before that, not a single photo. She looked so sad as if it was her last picture.
At the moment the camera flashed, she didn’t complain about what she’d never had, though maybe she should have complained about what she wasn’t going to get, what she was losing by marrying a man she didn’t love.
I’ve never had the courage to ask her why she accepted to be the wife of Diosdado if she wasn’t happy being with him. Perhaps the question would be silly, and neither she nor I like to speak of the past, about things that can’t be changed.
Fifteen years after being photographed, Diosdado escaped with God, or with the person in charge of distributing lodging to the deceased. My grandmother, whose name is Caridad, asked the Virgen del Cobre (Virgin of Copper) to help her raise her five kids.
Not one of them died.
The ration book (supplied by the new revolutionary government) also helped.
Maybe that’s why her first granddaughter was given the name Caridad, since it came from the mother’s two loves: Yordanka, you already know, from the former socialist camp; and Caridad, my grandmother. Actually, I kept this middle name secret until last year.
I now know that it’s madness to live 32 years omitting part of my identity. Since my mother (who was born before 1959, and for that reason her name is Maria de los Angeles, without any foreign adaptations) began working after the celestial flight of Diosdado, and my long days of growing up were shared with my grandmother.
I don’t recall her ever hitting me (not for saying bad words or for making up a song about her sister-in-law’s enormous boobs, nor for slowing eating away the huge poster of Che that she had in the front room).
With her, I learned how to whistle, to respect the freedom of birds and to talk with them (or at least to believe that I did so).
I didn’t learn how to sew, iron or cook. Luckily, she never sat me alongside her so that I could imitate her. She let me run free among the trees that surrounded our house.
Nor did she teach me to give shots, sensing that I wouldn’t like to repeat what she continually had to do to me, to disinfect my stubborn tonsils; but she showed me the art of herbs, which until then we had barely known how to use.
However, she also takes care of some animals, though she has never eaten any of those she has penned up…. despite there not being many alternatives.
A few days ago I took this photo of her by surprise; she never poses. Although more than 50 years have passed, it is astonishing to her what she can understand when she sees “her other self”, the one in the photos.