Straddling Between Two Worlds

A few months after I took my first unassisted steps, my father’s unending desire to escape the shackles that imprisoned his body, mind and soul forced him to abandon his homeland in search of freedom.

My story is no different than the stories told by other immigrant daughters who find themselves straddling between two worlds, the world they know and remember and the world they imagine only through stories. I do not remember Varadero Beach, the sand or the pine trees that lined the coast. I do, however, remember my first day of school, my brother’s first appearance in my life after coming home from the hospital and our two story home in New Orleans, the only first home I remember and the one my parents purchased with great sacrifice just a couple of years after arriving in the United States. The three cement steps leading up to the covered porch, the grand staircase, the small backyard…all of these images remain fresh on my mind. But of my birthplace there are no memories only fragmented stories with an array of indistinguishable characters, questionable plots, and obscure settings that I find difficult to grasp or comprehend.

There is one story, one of the very few stories told by my father on more than one occasion, that plays in my mind like a silent black and white movie. He rarely spoke of his country, what he had, what and who he lost or how he had suffered. Any information I gathered about my parents’ ordeals came from distant relatives I met later on in life. However, this one story was very important to my father, and so he found it necessary to occasionally remind me of our farewell visit to the beach before leaving the island where he took my shoes off while my mother complained and worried about the fate of my recently starched and ironed dress. He, of course, paid no attention to her and insisted on dipping my small feet in the water as the waves gently crossed our path. At this point in his story, he always seemed proud, elated in fact as if reliving the entire moment. Yet, soon a cynical grin would replace his smile and as he lowered his head, he pretended to give his next chapter little importance. Before walking away, he would end with “I knew we would never return.” He was right.

Making a pilgrimage to this foreign place almost seems impossible for me. I admit the idea of traveling there rarely crosses my mind, yet I know the day shall come when I must return to that beach if not for myself then for my father, for I know that although he never spoke the words or perhaps allowed himself to dream in color, deep in his soul hidden perhaps even from his own consciousness, he yearned for home.

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What a great story!
We, as parents, do what it takes to try and give our children a better life than we had.
I understand how proud you must be of your parents.
Good writing too.

such a shame for so many to have been forced out of that beautiful island. i hope to one day go back, as well.

I can’t imagine leaving my country behind, knowing it will probably be forever. The move was brave and bold, necessary. I’m sure it took its toll.

What a beautifully written tribute to your father, and to the Cuba you remember through his eyes.

Excellent… so many have lived this very same experience. My father also left everything he knew and came here 45 years ago. He did, however go back, and took us with him to see what was left behind.

Thank you Pam,Jennifer and Cassy.

After conducting a little research online, I was surprised to see that only a small handful of Cuban-American women (raised primarily in this country) have written their stories for the world to read. I feel these stories must be told.

Thank you Albert

Yes, forced out and kept out…Perhaps, one day I will gaze upon its natural beauty and see beyond its “unnatural” and polluted veil. Perhaps…

Such a wonderful, heartfelt story Marlene…your father must have been a wonderful man…


This is part of your soul…the very fabric of your being. I can feel it in the energy of your writing. You absolutely come to life here. You have always been a vivid writer but there is a passion and poignancy here so strong that it makes me hungry to reconnect with those places and people in life that make me feel more whole. It’s a bit like reaching a certain age in life and deciding that we are going to go a back (whether physically or emotionally in spirit) and pick up those parts of ourselves that were left behind (for whatever reason). Like claiming our heritage, our truth,….ourselves.

I love your father for doing what he did, because we are connected to the land, the sea the places that our souls reside. Often we ARE those place. Beautifully written, straight from the heart.

Sending hugs and respect…”right now.”

How hard it must be to leave one’s homeland even though life may be difficult. Through your words I can ‘see’ your father’s final good-bye and your tiny feet in the water.
What a beautifully written story…

Thank you Heather, Robin and Liz for your constant support and encouragement. In addition to writing this for myself and in my father’s memory, I also wrote this piece in a sincere attempt at providing my reader with a pathway to my heart.

bittersweet and touching

Mrs. Cueto, I can’t imagine what your family went through during their migration to the U.S.;your parents were very brave,and couragous to do such a thing. Your story inspires me;I love the fact that you can share your father’s wisdom. No matter where life takes us we go through obstacles that makes us who we are today. This story hits home a little with me. I Love it :)

Marlene, this is such a wonderful story that you have written here. You have such a talent for writing creatively. You really touched my heart and my soul. I do not know the experience of leaving my country and moving to another one, never to return. My wife left Cuba when she was three. Her sister, Bertha, was five at the time. I can feel your sense of loss, and I can also feel how much you loved your father. I loved my father very much as well. This
part I can relate to. Also, I know what it is like to live in one place for fourteen years and then have to leave it all behind. The starting over is sometimes very difficult.
I enccourage you to write more stories creatively.
Love, Rob

Prof Cueto your story touched my heart so deep that tears came out of my eyes. Maybe is because I was in Cuba recently I don’t know. The last day I lived in cuba, 2001, I went to “The Malecon” and sat there to see the sunset. However, in my recent trip to Cuba I did’nt do it because it was going to be so painfull for me. But, that is the destine that we did’nt got to choose, and we have to live with it every day of our lives.

Very moving.

Touches the heart

Bless you for honoring your father’s memory so poignantly. My parents fled their native Albania with their eldest son on their back in 1961. Risking everything to afford to us everything life had to offer is a gift I’ll take to my grave.

Thank you.

Thank you Karen, Yasmin, Rob, Geisa, Dawn, Sarah and Maria for your feedback.

Maria and Geisa
It is clear that you both understand my sentiments. As immigrants there are certain feelings that are difficult to describe and even more difficult to comprehend.

Honoring my father in this way has brought me great joy.

Thank you all.

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