Cuando salí de Cuba - Christina's story

Marta here: I'm celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Cuban-Style with a series of stories about Cuban American families: Cuando Sali de Cuba, stories of courage and hope.

This one is from my friend and fellow blogger, Christina Gomez-Pina. Inspired by the book/film Julie & Julia, she has embarked on her own Project: to celebrate the Cuban kitchen — the food, the abuelas who prepared it, and the family who gathered around the table to enjoy every bite. For her generation — and for her childrens’  generation — she is cooking her way through Nitza Villapol’s 1950s classic Cocina al Minuto. Her blog is fittingly called La Cocina de Christina.


Cuando salí de Cuba...

Christina F. Gomez-Pina

Nunca podré morirme,

mi corazón no lo tengo aquí.

Alguién me está esperando,

me está aguardando que vuelva aquí. 

I wasn’t born in Cuba, per se.  But, I see that as a technicality.  From my very beginnings, I was taught about Cuba with heart.  Y mi corazón has been there ever since.  As I grew, I realized that the Cuba I know and love is actually a state in the heart.  It is the stories from your family and the stories you created in your mind.  

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé mi vida dejé mi amor.

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé enterrado mi corazón. 

I understand what our families left behind.  I cannot comprehend what they went through, or what they were thinking when they left their lives and loves behind.  But what I do know is that one of my grandmothers brought Cocina al Minuto to Miami – a foreign land, where she hoped she’d see her three sons upon arrival.  She brought her book.  There was no way our grandmothers were leaving behind their pieces of home.

 The women of La Cocina de Christina, present day.  Daughter, Mom, me, Paternal grandmother (with her original book, the one she brought from Cuba) and my Mother in Law (with the copy I use for The Project, which she gave me as a wedding present in 2000).

Late y sigue latiendo

porque la tierra vida le da,

pero llegará un día

en que mi mano te alcanzará.

The heart keeps beating and the kitchen was where our grandmothers let it beat the loudest.  

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé mi vida dejé mi amor.

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé enterrado mi corazón. 

They left everything behind but they would not let their traditions, their culture, their olores a cocina disappear.  

Abuela Teresa, my dad's grandmother.  My great-grandmother.

Una triste tormenta

te está azotando sin descansar

pero el sol de tus hijos

pronto la calma te hará alcanzar. 

They taught us to cook.  After school, when our moms were at work and we were taken care of by our abuelas, they taught us to cook.  Carne fria, croquetas, flanes and arroz.  Whatever it was to both keep us busy and keep the meaning of what they lived for alive.

Daughter & me.  Making mariquitas for a photo shoot with The Miami Herald's Al Diaz, for a story in August 2009.

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé mi vida dejé mi amor.

Cuando salí de Cuba,

dejé enterrado mi corazón.

And I teach my daughter and sons to cook.  Because my abuelos left everything behind so that those children who became our parents and our own children would have a better life.  And I cook.  So that my children can learn where they came from – and where one day, they will return and make the reality they dream of in their minds.

Thanksgiving 2006 - Maternal grandmother, me, daughter and Mom.

Christina has been featured on The Burger Beast Blog preparing Cuban-style hamburgers and bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

Please visit Christina at her blog: La Cocina de Christina and if you want to help her out by commenting on the process of making her next recipe, go "like" her Facebook page, too.