My recent trip to Cuba has inspired quite a few Facebook postings, photos, and an article that has touched the hearts of many.
But the comment that has brought me the greatest smile was the one left under my Facebook post of a then-and-now photo I captioned: Abuelo’s finca … then and now.
It was a caption I took for granted my social media friends would understand.
But buried at the bottom of dozens of thumbs ups and reactions was a post by my oldest friend in the world. She’s an old soul who isn’t afraid to ask questions for which she doesn’t know the answer. She’s a teacher. And so asking questions is ingrained in her DNA.
It’s not the first time she has done this.
The innocence of her questions in a public social forum generate both laughter and frustration in me.
Her latest question was no different.
“What’s a finca?”she asked.
To be honest, my first reaction was to delete the comment. I felt I would be doing my friend a favor by removing a comment that made her look silly. She had missed the point of my posting altogether.
My second reaction was to offer a smart-ass remark that would have done nothing but pollute an otherwise beautiful thread of reactions to the photo, and made me look like an insensitive jerk.
That’s when the Angel of Inspiration touched my shoulder, turned me around so my ego couldn’t blind me and asked …
“What’s a finca?”
When an Angel and my oldest friend ask the same question, I fall to my knees and listen.
And so, my ego … after being slapped into humility, has this to offer:
A finca is a magical place where my family gathered to celebrate everyday life in circa 1950s Cuba to build dreams of the future.
It was a simple place, where we would escape the “stress” of everyday life, not knowing that the future would redefine stress by denying us of the peace that came so easy back then.
Coconut palms were planted along the entrance, a wooden structure was built so we could spend nights there, and the land was worked to supply the fruits of our labor of love.
Life was good.
And then it wasn’t.
But wait. About this “my,” “we,” “our” thing.
I was 2 years old. What did I know?
In the years that followed, to me, the finca was nothing but a series of stories of happiness and peace … symbols of what could have been … what the opposite of capitalism — the other “C” word — robbed from my family.
I was indifferent for 56 years.
That is, until I stepped foot on my abuelo’s finca … my grandfather’s farm … on April 20th, 2016.
We drove around for hours looking for it.
The Russian-made Lada we were in complained and its tires moaned with every turn of the steering wheel.
Mom almost gave up.
“We’re wasting time. We’ll never find it,” she said.
Mom told us that abuelo’s finca was next to Ateje’s finca. That was nowhere to be found either.
But our driver, Jorge, having experienced mom’s wisdom and clear memory since he had met her three days earlier, didn’t give up.
And then another sign … yet another among dozens during our trip that proved this journey was not quite of this earth.
Two young men suddenly appeared in our path.
Jorge pulled over by side of the road and asked them …
“Do you know where Finca Ateje is?”
“I was raised there,” one of them replied. “Do you want me to show you the way?”
Of course you were raised there, I thought. Because this is a magical place to which abuelo returned after he died. God lives here with him, and He wanted us to find him. So He sent you to guide us.
I don’t need to tell you that we found abuelo’s finca.
What I do need to tell you is that the woman who now lives there welcomed us with open arms.
She was cautious at first. And that’s to be expected.
After a half century of living in peace in a home you believed was yours, you’re not quite ready to welcome the previous owners who were asked to hand over their property so the government could give it to you.
It may be a symbolic “you” … but that no longer matters.
When we told her our story — when we all let our guard down — a half century of (pardon my potty mouth) bullshit was peeled away and our hearts were exposed.
We left there with gifts from the trees my abuelo had left in destiny’s care … the fruit from the trees he had planted … more fruit than we could possibly eat before we returned home … but enough memories to satisfy our hunger for a lifetime.
So, what’s a finca?
Now you know.