He also supported my writing habit and was so proud when I came home with a copy of the high school paper. He saved every one of them. He was so proud.
So I wanted to share a short I wrote about my dad and the moment he knew he was leaving Cuba. I wrote it over six years ago and read it a week after his funeral at an event for Cuban Artists in Houston, Tx. It was the first time I had written anything about the Cuban experience and looking at it now, I want to take a red pen to it. But I can’t. There are just some pieces that need to stay as they are. This is one of them. Enjoy.
The wood handled machete masterfully swung from left to right as if
conducting an unheard symphony. The mid day sunlight bounced off the ocean
and reflected on to the large knife blinding its owner. The fields were
eerily quiet with only the sounds of stubborn sugar cane to break the
stillness. His hands, a template of unhealed and raw wounds, saw the rise
and fall of his family. Those hands have done so much but have so much
left to do. They have built for the family, they have stolen for the
family, and above all, they have provided for a fatherless family of
eight. Now those hands are Cuba’s hands whether he wants it or not.
No one said a word that day but he knew everyone was thinking it.
Guzano. He’s a guzano. Some looked upon him like rotting flesh
basking in the middle of the tattered pebbled street during a heat wave.
Others looked at him with pride and smiled when he walked down the street.
And still others looked at him like a mechivous child, unable to deal with the
reality that he knew something they didn’t know. Mothers would grab their
children, protecting them from the invisible, contagious and apparently horrid
disease that this man seemed to have. It wasn’t confirmed nor denied by
the government, however, he was under social quarantine. To talk to him
was like signing a death warrant but to ignore him would be diminishing
Now this man, an ironic mixture of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness, started out his day in the sugar cane fields when he found out his
status. The merciless sun was beating down on his brown skin, cooking it
and utilmatley burning it with so much fierce and brute energy that could not be
contained, erased, or corrected in any form. He turned to his left
and faced the fickle ocean. Would it grant him his wish? Or would it
deny him his human right and punish him for wanting more.
After a hard days work, Osiris Ferrer Fernandez walked home in the cloudy
weather. The sun had realized that his human guinea pig was a
guzano. He laid down on the cool white linen sheets and closed his
eyes. He was half-asleep when the truck drove down the street, booming its
horn. It was the truck of hope whose horn echoed through the olden Spanish
streets of Cuba. To Osiris, it was the truck of liberty, telling everyone
of his freedom.
“Osiris se va. Guzano. Osiris se va, lunes. Guzano.
His eyes opened and he rushed to the door and outside to the street.
Finally, everyone knew what he knew. Mothers on the door stoops that were
braiding their daughter’s hair watched him drop to his knees, look up and raise
his hands to the sky. And on that tropical island the rain began to fall.
Osiris was the only man left on the street, welcoming the rain as it soothed his
sun burned skin and refreshed his hopes and dreams. His tears were
raindrops and his llantos, were thunderous rolls of joy echoing through San
Diego de Cuba.
Years after, Osiris Ferrer Fernandez, Cuban guzano became Osiris Fernandez,
US citizen. Father of four, husband of one, and eternally