Saturday, March 22, 2008

Con Cachao y Su Orquesta, Ire A Bejucal...


Cachao, master Cuban composer, passed away today.


I'm 37 years old, and only began appreciating the music of this maestro with the release of his Master Sessions in the 90's. The effect those recording have on me is hard to describe. You have to be the son of Cuban parents -- mystified by the memory of a Cuba known to you only through the eyes of your parents -- to understand.


As I write this, I'm sitting in my back porch, smoking a Padron 1964. I'm reflecting on what it means to be Cuban, without having ever set foot on the island. I'm reflecting on the word legacy. I am again, mystified by life and the many twists in the road; what it means to live 89 years and have accomplished so much.

I'm reflecting on my father and his 67 years and the many twists and turns in his road; on my mother and the legacy of love she has left for me.

I am prompted suddenly to think of my life; where I've been, where I am and where I am going.

The slow, melodic rhythm of a Danzon Cubano is playing in my head. The strings are hypnotizing. Cachao and his orchestra sound amazing.

Earlier this week amidst the busyness of moving to a new home and trying to catch up with my work; of making sure my wife and our soon to be born son are comfortable; of making sure my daughter knows she is loved deeply by her father, I thought of what it means to be Cuban. Am I Cuban-American, or just plain American? Do I want to associate myself with the madness of a nation whose leader has raped and destroyed his people, or do I embrace the nation that is my home and I have loved for its rich history of freedom?

Is being Cuban a title given exclusively to those born on the rich soil of that island whose soul has been ripped in two?

Sometimes, I know I am American. Sometimes, I just don't know.

When you live the memories of your parents, when you see the streets of Santiago de las Vegas in your mind even though you've never been there, when you see the waves crashing on the walls of El Malecon, or drive through the tunnel to Havana sitting on the bus bench next to your father, you just don't know.

When you walk into the house your mother and father lived in when they first married and see how small the bedroom was that they had to jump right into bed in order to step into the room, or watch your great grandmother prepare cafe con leche for your father every morning before going to school, you just don't know.

When you see your father flying paper kites with his cousins under the sun and palm trees of a colonial Spanish town, you just don't know.

When you see your father courting your mother in a beautiful park lined with ancient trees, always under the watchful eye of your grandmother looking beautiful with her bright blue eyes, you just don't know.

So tonight, I am Cuban, and there isn't a damn thing anyone can say to me otherwise.

Tonight, I can say que fui a Santiago de las Vegas; I went to the town of my parents. The place they called home.

I can always count on Cachao and his music to take me to that place where I can be Cuban. For that I am ever grateful.

3 comments:

José Alberto Balido said...

Congratulations for writing such a beautiful blog entry. Seeing as you dream of our beautiful hometown of Santiago de las Vegas, I'd like to point you to our blog Santiago de las Vegas en Línea (http://sdlv.blogspot.com), where you will find the stories of many people like your parents who had the good fortune to know our town in its heyday. If you would like to contribute any old photographs, or interviews with your parents, we'd be delighted to consider them for publication.

Also, do visit www.santiagodelasvegas.org, where you will find hundreds of old photographs of our town.

Best of luck, and keep up the great writing!

José Alberto Balido
josebalido@aim.com

Mercedes said...

First generation Cubans should be able to read this! I took the liberty of translating!

"Tengo 37 a�os de edad, y en los 90�s empec� a apreciar la m�sica de este maestro. Es dif�cil describir el efecto que estas grabaciones tuvieron en m�. Tienes que ser hijo de padres cubanos para entender�viviendo bajo el enigma por la memoria de Cuba, la cual s�lo conoces a trav�s de los ojos de tus padres.

Mientras escribo, estoy sentado en el portal trasero de mi casa, fumando un Padr�n de 1964. Reflejo lo que significa ser cubano, sin siquiera haber puesto un pie en la isla. Pienso en el significado de la palabra �legado.� Nuevamente, me maravillo al pensar en la vida y sus muchas vueltas, lo que representa vivir 89 a�os y haber logrado tanto.

Estoy pensando en mi padre y sus 67 a�os, y las muchas vueltas que su vida ha tenido; en mi madre y el legado de amor que me ha dejado.

Mi siento s�bitamente obligado a pensar en mi vida; d�nde he estado y hacia d�nde voy.

Escucho la m�sica suave y mel�dica del Danz�n Cubano en mi mente. El sonido de las cuerdas me hipnotiza. Cachao y su orquesta tienen un sonido maravilloso.

A principios de esta semana estuve sumamente envuelto por la mudanza a una nueva casa; tratando de terminar mi trabajo; tratando de cerciorar el bienestar de mi esposa y el hijo que pronto nacer� y tratando de asegurarme que mi hija sepa lo mucho que su padre la quiere. Sin embargo, pens� en el significado de ser cubano. �Ser� cubano-americano o simplemente americano? �Quiero verdaderamente estar asociado con la locura de un pa�s cuyo un l�der ha ultrajado y destruido a su pueblo, o acepto la naci�n que es mi hogar y la cual quiero por su historia y libertad?

�Es ser cubano un t�tulo dado �nica y exclusivamente a aquellos que nacieron en la rica tierra de una isla cuya alma ha sido quebrantada en dos partes?

A veces se que soy americano, pero otras veces no se.

Cuando vives las memorias de tus padres, cuando ves calles de Santiago de las Vegas en tu mente, aunque nunca hayas estado ah� cuando ves las paredes de El Malec�n, o atraviesas el T�nel de la Habana, sentado en el banco de la guagua junto a tu padre, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando entras a la casa donde tu madre y padre vivieron de reci�n casados, y ves lo peque�a que es la habitaci�n, pues ten�an que pr�cticamente brincar a la cama al entrar, o cuando ves a tu bisabuela preparar caf� con leche para tu padre todas las ma�anas antes de ir a la escuela, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando ves a tu padre volando papalotes con sus primos bajo el sol y las palmas reales de un pueblo colonial espa�ol, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Cuando ves a tu padre cortejando a tu madre en un hermoso parque lleno de viejos �rboles, pero siempre bajo la mirada vigilante de tu abuela, quien la observa con sus brillantes ojos azules, simplemente no sabes que eres.

Esta noche, soy cubano y no hay nadie en el mundo que me diga lo contrario.

Esta noche, puedo decir que fui a Santiago de las Vegas, fui al pueblo de mis padres, fui al hogar de mis padres.

Siempre puedo contar con Cachao y su m�sica para que me transporten a aquel lugar donde puedo ser cubano. Por esto, estar� eternamente agradecido."

Marquito said...

Wow! Thank you Mercedes. I can read speak Spanish very well; it's just the writing where I get challenged.

I'll try to clean it up and re-post it this evening.