My mom has a pretty hilarious childhood friend who tells great stories. She hasn’t been in the states too long and so, lived most of her life under dictatorship. When I was in Miami in January she came to visit and had me both bent over in laughter, and head hung in sadness, with tales from Cuba.
This woman, like my family, is from Banes, a pretty little tip on the eastern side of the island. She told me men women and children trolled the beach daily looking for items that were either thrown off, or had fallen off, of freighters and cruise ships. Everything was put to use.
One time hundreds of Chinese straw mats washed ashore and everyone in town suddenly had new carpeting. Four apples (not found in Cuba) were collected once and the oldest person of the group, this woman’s father, said he’d take the first bite. If he lived, everyone else could have a slice. They all lived. And the littlest ones tasted apple for the first and only time.
Empty jugs also were a common find, but she could never figure out why people kept those.
My mom’s friend worked at the hospital filling out birth certificates. She helped talk a few guajiros out of odd names. Many she didn’t: Danger, Sindulfo, Usnavy (Get it, U.S. Navy?), Katiuska, after a Russian rocket launcher.
Her favorite however was this story: A woman who had about five kids insisted the new baby’s name start with a Y, as was a popular custom in Cuba in the ’70s and ’80s. They were mostly made up names like Yudislady, Yulieski, Yunio. But, the new mom couldn’t figure out which name to pick, or how to make another one up.
“Yo ni se,” she told my mom’s friend. (“I don’t know.”)
And then she quickly said: “Oh, that’s nice! Let’s do that one. Yonise.”
And so, Yonise aka “I don’t know” was named.
The point of this?
A friend last week introduced me to a blog written by a young Cuban in Cuba about Cuba. It is raw and honest. At least, I hope she’s being honest and speaking from her own gut. The conspiracy theorists wonder if she’s just a tool of the Revolution. It stands to reason, I guess, for many others have been jailed or killed for less. A lot less.
The blog is called Generation Y and the writer, Yoani Sanchez, says: “Generatión Y is a Blog inspired by people like me, with names that start or contain a “Y”. Born in the Cuba of the 70s and the 80s, marked by the “schools to the countryside”, the Russian cartoons, the illegal exits and the frustration. So, an invitation goes especially to Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others that drag their Ys, to read me and write back.”
Some posts have more than 800 comments. She’s gotten international press and many, many hits.
My favorite of the posts I have read is this one, in which she searches all day for a lemon to make tea to soothe her sore throat. She didn’t find one.
I hope she is real.
But, even if she isn’t, the sentiment and longing and anger she displays is real.
The blog as an English translation button, by the way, and it’s pretty good.