Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On leaving

Pearl of the Sea! Star of the West!
Beautiful Cuba! Your brilliant sky
Is covered by Night's opaque veil,
As my brow is by the pain enveloping it.

I am leaving! The diligent seamen
The sails have raised that soon will tear me
From my native land; and as they unfurl
The winds of the Torrid Zone wait on them.

Farewell, my happy country, beloved Eden!
Where'er the Fates in their fury shall cast me,
Your sweet name shall be like flattery in my ear.

Farewell! ... The swollen sails are rustling,
The anchor is raised ... the ship, convulsed,
Ploughs the waves, flying silently.

—Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda
Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea

I left Cuba exactly 40 years ago today. I can't think of a better way to acknowledge what I owe to my heritage than to quote this brilliant, Cuban-born poet that was so ahead of her times.


Barb said...

As a young girl, what were your feeling as you left your country? Was it excitement, hope for the future, saddness, powerless because of being a minor, feeling of loss, or all of these?

Anonymous said...

Is hard to believe that 40 years has passed since that frightful night.I could sense that Mom and Dad were very scared eventhough they tried to hide it.The episode with the vaccine,the presence of armed military personel and the way they looked and treated us,the tears that were shed throughout the day but especially that evening and not knowing wheather dad was going to be allowed to leave with us or be held back.Sitting on the plane you could sense the anticipation of joy of new beginnings as well as the sadness of leaving love ones and their homeland,I was just scared, it was my first airplane ride.I believe the captain of the plane a few minutes after take off said over the intercom that they were over international waters and he welcomed us to America,The entire plane erupted in joyous celebration.Cuba is my country of birth,I will never forget its traditions and hopes but I am an American,the opportunity it gave my parents and us for a new beginning will never be forgotten.

Maria said...

Al - I, too, have vivid memories of that day, and you have captured many of them brilliantly.

Likewise, I have a deep sense of gratitude and loyalty towards this country that generously opened up its arms with the dual promise of freedom and opportunity. Two precious gifts that should never be taken for granted.

I also consider myself, above all, an American, but memories of those early years are powerful, and they have informed and shaped the person I am today. I am grateful that I can add, to all my other life experiences, the one of being born in such a beautiful country inhabited by such joyous people; I believe the experience has enriched my life and I am a better person for it.