Monday, August 3, 2009

CUBA 2008 Part 1 -San Nicolas de Bari

This past December I traveled with my Mother and my two Brothers to the country I was born in, Cuba. It was our first time back as a family in 37 years. I lived in Cuba till I was 9 years old, then moved to Spain and then finally to the US.
We arrived in Havana on December 11. Our chartered flight, which originated from Miami, took a little over an hour. I was so excited but also anxious, I did not know what to expect. I could not wait to meet my Cousins and see my Aunt and Uncle.
As a Cuban /American you are allowed to travel to Cuba legally if you still have family there. You are limited to 44 lbs of accompanied baggage, 20 lbs of packaged foods and 15 lbs of medicine.
Upon arrival, we were escorted to a hangar where we had to go through a series of checkpoints with our luggage. They are very strict with the allotted weight, if you go over the limit they fine you, heavily.
My Cousin Carmen, whom I had not seen since the late 70’s, lives part of the year in Cuba and the rest in Spain, which is where I had seen her last, greeted us at the airport in Havana with a friend and his ’57 Chevy. They drove us back to our hometown, San Nicolas de Bari.
Wow, dirt roads, boarded up houses, old cars, horse drawn buggies, very weathered and tired looking people, I felt as if I was in the set of an old western movie, it was surreal.

View from the sky

Common form of transportation


"Laundry Day"

The pizza man

Horse drawn buggy

José Martí (1853-1895), was a poet, journalist, teacher, philosopher and a political activist. He became the national hero of Cuba. The barber in this picture is an admirer of José Martí and he also resembles him a great deal.


Friendly local 

More laundry, one of my favorite subjects to photograph in all of my travels.

My Cousin Carmen is a great cook. In this picture she is making buñuelos, a traditional Cuban dessert made with white sweet potatoes. I had not had buñuelos since I lived in Cuba, they are delicious but very time consuming to make. I was so grateful to her for making them for us, it brought back so many memories from my youth.



My Brother Joe helping Carmen in her kitchen

My Aunt Migdalia invited us for lunch at her house, she lives very comfortably, she's in her late 70's but not in the best of health.

 Dining room and patio

Lunch time

Drinking rum with my Brother Ron, note the recycled shot glasses.

My Uncle Norberto is in his early 90's, he resembles my Dad so much, it was very emotional for me to see him at first. My Dad passed away in 2000, he so wanted to return to his Cuba someday, but unfortunately it never happened. He was there with us though, in our minds and hearts.

At our Cousin Elia's house playing dominoes, the national game of Cuba.

Cousin Elia's kitchen

My Cousin Noel's daughter was expecting her first baby, she showed us her closet full of baby things.

My Cousin Elena cooks for the local political party and this is their kitchen.

Not far from our town there's a beach called "Playa Caimito", we drove there to watch the sunset, it was a bit chilly to swim, but that did not stop my Brother Joe.

Residents of Playa Caimito

These three boys were playing near by so I asked them if they would sit for me so that I could take this picture.

Yup, more laundry

A one legged bicyclist and an old lady from Playa Caimito

The cemetery

Our Grandmother's house, I have fond memories of this place, running around in her flower garden catching butterflies with a net. I had quite the collection, neatly placed in a picture album. My Grandmother had a very large sugar cane farm, she had horses, pigs, chickens, donkeys..., she also had live-in servants. Her house as I remember back then was pretty spectacular, not anymore, it's in great disrepair, very sad.

Living room


Our old house

Marked on the back stoop of our house, is the year our parents got married, January 1, 1958

Our kitchen

Living room and dining room

Our old church

This is one of the ways rice is dried, by spreading it on the road for a couple of days when they know that it's not suppose to rain. They also dry it on flat roof tops.

"Beach piggies"

My dream house? Could be? For now it's just a dream.

✈ ✈ ✈

This is part one of my Cuba trip, the next post will be on Trinidad which was our first long journey from our town.
Trinidad is a small city rich in architecture and history. It has been declared a national monument by the Cuban government.
Till then, enjoy,


Unknown said...

Thanks for this great post of your visit to San Nicolás. Like you, I left Cuba when I was a youngster, I was 8, and went to Spain before finally settling in the U.S. I have not been back to San Nicolás since I left Cuba in 1969. My paternal grand uncle, Claudio Fernández was mayor of the town for a time, and before my mother and I left we visited him to say good-by. My paternal grandfather, José Julio Fernández, lived in San Nicolás as well, before moving to Havana.

I have been back to Cuba on a number of occasions over the years starting in 1998, but have never made it to San Nicolás. Your blog inspired me to try to visit again soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,
One of my dear friends is from San Nicolas. Thanks so much for the mini-tour. Great photos! I hope to visit there someday.

Anaily O. said...

Hi Julia, i am also from San Nicolas de Bari. But I left their almost 8 years ago. I was only 4 when i left but I still remember a lot. Most of my family still lives their. I lived in a small neighborhood called el Miedo. Even though I dont know why its called that. Im from the Chirino and Ortiz family. Im actually a decendant from Willy Chirino. I visited once after i left in 2003. I turn 13 in January and i wish to visit again and see my family and my beautiful birth town. Thank you so much for the pictures. I can actually remember some of the paces. Even the ones of Playa Caimito!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,

Thanks for the great pictures. I'm going to San Nicolas NEXT WEEK! My father was born there and this is the first time I'm going to Cuba. My parents, gringo husband :), and three young children are going, too, so it will be a memorable adventure.