I was in Florida a few months ago for the KIA Fun and Forty Challenge from Miami to Key West. My time was pretty much booked (in the best way possible) with all the fun activities connected to the trip.
KIA treated us to a fabulous dinner at A & B Lobster House in Key West, after which the rest of the group wanted to meander down to Duval Street in search of fun. Since we were scheduled to leave the following morning, I had to make sure I visited the one must-see-for-all-Cubans-landmark which is fortuitously located in KeyWest.
I made my apologies to the rest of the group and grabbed a cab to take me to the Southernmost Point of the United States. If you've been there, you know that there's a giant buoy on dry land which marks this spot. It also notes that Key West is known as the Conch Republic. But it's the small scrolly yellow type on the wide blue band of this landmark that makes every Cuban who has been here stop and document the moment.
It reads: 90 Miles to Cuba.
Me & Eric. Key West, Florida. 2003.
There's something jarring and a bit sobering about that bit of information. First you say, "Wow! How cool is that?! It's only 90 miles to Cuba! Let's get a photo!" Then, you stand there for just a moment and the reality slowly sinks in. "It's only 90 miles to Cuba from this spot."
That's about how far it is from my house to the Mexican border and is easily drive-able in a little over an hour.
I stood there and thought of how near Cuba was to me at that moment. Almost immediately I thought of how impossibly far those 90 miles really were. How many Cubans, I wondered, had risked their lives and everything they held dear to attempt that 90 mile crossing? How many of us were here, with our homeland just 90 miles out of our reach?
I got emotional. And there in the middle of the night, as I asked the cab driver to please take my picture, I burst into tears.
A mere 90 miles from the land of my birth was really an entire lifetime away.
As one of my Facebook readers solemnly noted, it's like visiting our very own Statue of Liberty. It's a must-see. And it's mandatory that we be photographed there.
For a moment, I wondered if it was just a personal thing. So I asked my Facebook fans if they made the pilgrimage and did the photo thing, too.
I received the following…
From Mercy Cope: Couldn't find one of myself but here are my daughter & niece last summer.
From Elizabeth Medinilla: Photo was taken last August. I was so happy our cruise ship was diverted to Key West due to hurricane near Bahamas.
Jose and Ody Fabregas.
From Esther Behar LaRoque: We were just there!
Marie and Marc Masferrer. By the way, Marc has a wonderful must-read blog called Uncommon Sense. He keeps abreast of and reports on all the news from the anti-Castro dissident movement in Cuba and blogs passionately for a free Cuba. Go and read. He's a wonderful journalist and friend.
I love that marker. I do. I love what it represents. I love that even though it denotes the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A. it's a landmark that we Cuban-Americans claim as our own.
Carrie from Tiki Tiki Blog even sent me a photo of the marker all bundled up and waiting for Hurricane Isaac to arrive.
I have a little souvenir version of this beautiful and iconic "90 Miles to Cuba" marker.
I take it with me when I travel. And I have a lot of fun with it.
I like to photograph myself with it in the most random places.
When I'm not traveling, it sits on my desk, as a constant reminder of how near and yet so far those 90 miles truly are.
I have one 3 inch tall replica (just like mine) of the Southernmost Point Marker, aka the "90 Miles to Cuba" buoy to give away.
To enter the drawing for a chance to win this adorable "90 Miles to Cuba" souvenir, please leave a comment on this post and answer one or all of the following questions:
- What year did your family arrive in the U.S. from Cuba?
- Have you ever been to the "90 Miles to Cuba" Marker in Key West and did you take a photo?
- Where would you photograph the marker if you had one?
I'll do a random drawing on Thursday, August 30th at 8 pm Pacific Time.
Let the relajo begin.
Thanks to all of you who posted your photos on My big, fat, Cuban family Facebook page. I love when you play along. ~Marta