By Dominique Valido
HAVANA TIMES – When I think about Cuba, I often ask myself “What does Cuba mean to me?” Cuba means my heritage, my culture, my roots and my connection to my Papi. My Papi passed away on February 9, 2001 at 1 am in the morning.
I remember that day precisely because I had even woken up in a cold sweat feeling out of body completely. What was even crazier was I had just seen him in the hospital that Tuesday and just like that he was gone forever.
I have now, of course, accepted his death and understanding that is the way of life. The only hurt I do have left in me is that I have never met my family I have in Cuba. I sometimes wonder if the family he has left there even know he has passed away. I sometimes wonder will I ever get the privilege of meeting my long-lost family. It has been 18 years since Leocadio Sosa Valido has left my life and this earth.
Coping with his death I turned to blogging and eventually I began traveling more. The first place I wanted to visit was Cuba. People told me not to go alone or warned me that I may get hurt. Some friends even asked how I would I communicate because I am not fluent in Spanish. In my mind, I felt like Cuba was my home even before I visit, so I ignored all the many warnings.
The first place I stayed at in Cuba was Cojimar in 2017 with a guy, his kids, and mother in an Airbnb. I had the top floor and every morning they would bring me an authentic Cuban breakfast. I never felt unsafe or out of place in Cuba. Yes, there was quite some difference in Cuba versus the USA. You must purchase a Wi-Fi card to use the internet in a certain designated area was the one that was so odd to me.
Like the hot dogs are even different and alcoholic drinks are so cheap. I learned how to make a mojito from scratch. Cubans are so welcoming and Cuba is never asleep, its always awake. You can wake up to the sounds of singing, music or people selling fruit or veggies. Churros being made and sold on the side of the street.
Despite the many differences, I still enjoyed my first visit to the point where I went again. I visited Havana’s Playa district in 2018 and had an apartment. The area I stayed in was I guess more urban than Cojimar I would say. I always met friendly people and despite the language barrier, they went out the way to show me around. I feel so comfortable when I visit Cuba, I never feel out of place, like I am always treated like family.
I would like to find my long-lost family but to be honest I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t know exactly where my Papi was born besides it being in Cuba. I know he has sisters and brothers and I believe his mother’s name was Maria Sosa. I do not have much information to go on and I sometimes google my last name but give up when I see people from different areas and different faces. Cuba has so many boroughs I feel like I will never find them but someday it may happen.
My greatest wish is that on one trip I meet my real family, that would be a dream. I do know I will be visiting again this year sometime. I am highly intrigued by Trinidad, Cuba, so that may be the next stop even though I love Havana. Old Havana had to be my favorite place in Cuba. It is very scenic at night. Cuba will always be on my travel to go list if traveling is allowed.
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