“My great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was in a duel. He was the poor man who dueled with a rich man, and he won, and the rich man’s family vowed revenge. So, he and the woman he loved had to flee Spain and change their names.”
My mother was born in Cuba and my father was born in France. Post-war, my father’s family picked up everything and brought everyone to Cuba. My mother was already there, and they met and fell in love. Then, at twenty-three years old, they move to Boston, get married and create me. They drive across the country into Orange County, California, where I was born. During the war, my grandmother escaped from Spain to France and worked in the vineyards. She fell in love with my grandfather, a Frenchman, and nothing really came of it other than my dad. She then met a Spaniard prisoner of war, and they kind of fell in love. They moved to Cuba and they started Cuban Electric. Do you know Cuban Electric? They were the first people to bring televisions into Cuba; that was my grandpa. My grandfather owned it. And then Castro came and took that away. So my grandfather’s like “Where do I go now?”
It’s really interesting, my grandma was a frustrated artist and she used to makes these shields, basically the coat of arms of Cuba. She would make it out of stone and glitter or whatever would personify it. She used to make these shields and everyone in our neighborhood in California wanted one so she would make them for all these people. Every time the conversation about going back to Cuba came up in the presence of my grandfather, he would tear up and cry. I thought I’d never be able to go to Cuba because I didn’t want to break his heart. He just passed away two summers ago and now I can go. Things are changing, so maybe I will.
I have four generations in Cuba on both sides. Before that though, my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was in a duel. He was the poor man who dueled with a rich man, and he won, and the rich man’s family vowed revenge. So he and the woman he loved had to flee Spain and change their names. As a result we don’t really know too much more. They chose the most common name you could get, Fernandez, and we don’t really know about our history before they came to Cuba. We just know he was escaping revenge. He spent the next sixteen years in Cuba until Castro had started teaching communism in schools and then my grandfather was like “Forget it, we’re out of here.”
My family has handed down some mementos to me, I got my father’s little spy camera from the sixties. He became a neurosurgeon after being jailed in the Bay of Pigs.