It is hard to write about everything I saw and experienced in Cuba. There were so many emotions, so many beautiful souls I was privileged to come across, so much knowledge.
The thing is I didn’t even see all of it. Three cities and a few villages were all I got.
I stayed in Varadero, a beach town, where the scent of the sea and the singing of birds woke me up every morning. I also got to see Havana. Whatever you have heard, take it, multiply by a thousand and know you won’t come close. Havana is a magnificent old soul.
Che is everywhere in Cuba. And he is Argentinan. But his story is so inspiring that I understand why these people love him so completely.
I have heard of him before now but you know how you hear of someone but don’t pay attention. In Cuba, I had no choice. Che is everywhere.
I never knew he was a doctor. I had never heard of how he traveled around the countryside providing free healthcare to people that otherwise would have died. I can almost see him; young, unafraid, adventurous, and so angry at the elite and governments that cared less about the people they fed off from.
In Cuba, funerals are free. Caskets and so on. This is not why Che was buried here. This not why Cuba insisted on his body being returned home for burial. This is not why they waited more than 20 years later to bury his remains.
Men like this should be cremated and their ashes scattered everywhere. One strand of hair in Madagascar. One fingernail in Buenos Aires. One handful of ash in the Pacific, another in the Atlantic. So that everywhere, they are heard, everywhere they are seen. So that people don’t forget them.
I visited the tomb of a woman who was said to have died in childbirth. Her grave is in the largest cemetery in Havana. This cemetery is like the park I went to in Toronto. A cemetery that is really a park. A park that is really a cemetery. A place where the dead and the living cohabit happily. One set trying to find peace, while the other have learned that peace will find you.
Anyway, back to the cemetery in Havana. The woman’s tomb is famous. It is called the grave of the miracle worker. It is said that after she died in childbirth, they buried her along with her child. Except the child was buried between her legs but when someone exhumed the grave a couple of years later (please don’t ask me why!), they found the child in her arms.
Barren women throng the tomb seeking miracles. Women with sick children too. People seeking hope, miracles. I stood in front of her tomb, an unbeliever, albeit a sad one.
See, I too have lost too many to the process of bringing new life into the world (thanks to Nigerian healthcare). I stood in front of that tomb and felt sad, not for her, but for those visitors that came seeking a different sort of miracle so many years ago, the people that loved her, those who only wanted one miracle from the miracle worker- for her to breathe again.
Cuba was an experience. I could tell a thousand tales; of its people and the way their kisses are tattooed on my skin, of its sugar plantations, of water so blue there was no telling the difference from the sky, of hearing words of my native language so far away from home…but until you see it for yourself, I will only be doing a poor job.