As I think about "Cubanos in Wisconsin", and those family members who came before, it leads me to a few conclusions:
1) I have a great family. The Canto & Lastra families were great examples of everything that was good about pre-Castro Cuba. I am talking about good role models and a strong work ethic.
2) Cuba was an amazing island. It enjoyed a great economy and the island was attracting people from all over the world, as Carlos Eire wrote about a couple of months ago.
3) Cubans were a rather elegant people. They loved to dress and celebrate events.
Let me start with my mother's family. She was the daughter of a Spanish immigrant Pedro Lastra and a woman from Ciego Adelina Martinez. Pedro came to Cuba in the 1920s with his brothers and took advantage of every opportunity that the island gave him. His brothers went on to be successful entrepreneurs but lost everything when the communists destroyed private enterprise. My grandmother Adelina was a self reliant woman who would "hum" songs when she walked around the house. She told me many times that life was full of "sorpresas", a statement that proved to be prophetic when the island turned communist. You can tell from these pictures that Pedro and Adelina had that confident look that so many Cubans projected:
Let's talk about my father's family. Silvio and Senda had roots in 19th century Cuba. A few years ago, I found this about the Canto family dating back to the 1840s. It turns out that there was a farm outside of Sagua and a small lake named Laguna Canto. The small lake provided my father and uncles a great place to fish, swim and take pictures. My grandmother Senda had two favorite subjects: my grandfather and stories of Cuban independence in 1902. She was a 10 year old girl on that day. She was also related to several men who fought for Cuban independence. Her mother was a piano teacher who insisted that she'd learn English "just in case" she ever traveled to the US. My grandmother Senda is the only one of my grandparents who left Cuba and is buried in Dallas. They are my connection to Sagua La Grande:
My parents met, got married and their elegance is all over those photos that I recently saw.
Click here for my Spanish and English interviews about the book:
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