Monday Blog Hijackery or Parrots, El Puma, y el Cubaneo

Today's Monday Blog Hijackery is brought to you by my friend, Chantel Acevedo.

You'll find her linked in a few places here on my blog. She is part of the blogroll titled Smart Cuban Women and Friends. Her personal blog is called Yuca Baby. (Go there. Right now. Tell her Marta sent you. =D)

You'll also find her listed in the Smart Cuban Authors section.

Her book is Love and Ghost Letters and according to Oscar Hijuelos (another celebrated Cuban author. Actually, Mr. Mambo King himself. Shut up. I know.) her debut novel is...

"... enchanting;a heartfelt story. It tells volumes about the intimate life and loves of a family in pre-Castro Cuba. Along the way, it captures, beautifully, the atmosphere and emotions of a time which, both Cuban Americans and many an American reader, will find both reminiscent and fulfilling. A great debut.


Personally, I couldn't put it down, but that's not important right now...

I had the happy privilege of meeting Chantel face-to-face last year (at Disneyland, of course!) and I felt like we were insta-friends. I know you're going to love her, too.


Without further ado, please welcome Mrs. Chantel Acevedo to My big, fat, Cuban family. (APPLAUSE!)


Why I want a parrot...

I want a parrot. 
Specifically, I want a Sun Conure.  One of these guys:



I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now, considering what kind of cage to buy, where to put it, what to do with the bird I’ve already named “Sunshine” (not so creative, I know) when I’m out of town. 

All of this, even though I know I’m not getting the parrot.  He’s wee, but expensive.  Loud.  Messy.  Yet, if I close my eyes, I can imagine his minimal weight on my finger, the downy feathers against my cheek, the soft scent of seed in the air.

Where does this desire come from?  As all things in my life, I can trace this one back to my Miami childhood, and my very Cuban upbringing. 

I grew up in a house full of birds. There were the canaries in wicker cages in the Florida room, a dishtowel hung up between the cages so that the canaries, unaware of each other’s whereabouts, would sing operatically, trying to locate one another. 

One of the canaries was named Jose Luis Rodriguez, and the other, Julio Iglesias.

El puma
Remember El Puma, guys?  Vintage yum.

There were parakeets, all blue, because my grandmother said the green ones tended to be mean.  I named them all Tweety. 

And outside, the flocks of green Cuban parrots, having found their way to Miami like so many of their human counterparts, created swift, moving shadows on the ground as they flapped loudly above us in happy, squawking groups.

Everyone I knew had pet birds. 

My aunt, bless her, had a Tweety of her own, a most unfortunate creature that got trapped in the refrigerator, smacked around by a ceiling fan, and nearly drowned in a fish tank. Yet it lived over a decade, and learned to call my cousin’s name, “Andrea, Andrea,” in a sweet, parroty voice. 

My husband’s family had birds too, a host of finches in an elaborate glass cage in his mother’s house, while his grandmother had a penchant for canaries named Caruso.

There’s some irony here I’d rather not explore, this idea of caged things among a people who once lived on a caged island…

It seems my childhood had wings, or at least, it did in my imagination. 

So, as I psychoanalyze myself here on MBFCF, wondering why there are birds in everything I write, why I have a pair of bronze parrot bookends on my shelf, and why I’m longing for a Sun Conure, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about home, about that añoranza Cubans feel all the time, a word more suited than “longing” for what we feel. 

For me, I am doubly struck by it—desiring a Cuba I’ve never seen, and now, nearly a decade away from home, missing Miami the way one misses her mother. 

As Cubans, this is our cross.  We lighten it each in our own way—the lovely and talented Marta cooks and blogs, our mutual friend, Val, champions the cause dearest to his heart with everything in him, I write about Cuba in my fiction every day and really, really, REALLY want a parrot, if only because it reminds me of home.

Thanks for letting me hijack the blog, Marti.  I suggest we meet again soon, preferably while eating Dole Whips in the Enchanted Tiki Room.

See what I mean?
Thanks so much, Chantel!
Dole Whips in the Enchanted Tiki Room??  I'm in!

(*sigh* A girl after my own heart....)