My papá never saw the United States in person. But he spoke of this country with idolatry. I suspect papá was a natural annexationist.
His patriotism did not believe in the good will of the nation, and thus aspired to save the Cuban people from some historical horror. Papá bet on the Law, but — and this he experienced in his own flesh, then, and now in the flesh of his flesh which in some small part is me — he sensed that the law in Cuban is a noose that Cubans put around the necks of Cubans.
In the Republic or the Revolution (Papá was born on April 8, 1919, a year that I love as much as mine: 1971), that gentle man with green eyes and parents who were cousins in Cudillero, Asturias, collected commercial information about the United States. Magazines from the fifties, pocket-books stolen from the National Library, letters and accounting tomes, and a thousand little things from his family exiled so quickly that even another son he lost, in 1962, Manolito Pardo Jr., who wrote to us from Miami until my father died on August 13, 2000, eaten up by undiagnosed cancer but without the slightest wince.
One had to hear how my father said, at breakfast time, after coffee with milk in the wooden house in Lawton,, and before lighting the first cigarette of the universe: “The United States…”
He was called Dionisio Manuel. And he was my papá.
Today the United States is a wasteland for me.
And not just for me.
If you don’t have someone to give a nicotine-smelling hug at dawn, if there is no one to fight with over his radical democrat nonsense, if disease took away his belly and then his son’s heart (he didn’t pay attention to it when he asked me on his deathbed to be quiet until the last of the criminals of Castros’ Cuba died of old age), if a simple or battery-operated Father’s Day postcard does not have any meaning to you, then all the fathers in the universe are missing from our souls.
I’m sorry for those who can still be comforted.
I can’t. Nor can many others.
Not to mention, me, I don’t want to.
The memory of death is our best talisman.
15 June 2013