MK - Cuba Blog

by Kelly Vo
Jul 12

One of the more profound moments that I had during my stay in Cuba occurred on the third night. Our group had bonded with one family in particular after meeting the father in a serendipitous manner the day before. The man, Jorge Luis, had then invited us back to his home to conduct an interview and to meet the other members of his family. Personally, I bonded with his daughter, Lola, right away. Upon meeting Gabby, Ava, and I, she welcomed us into her bedroom, introduced us to her son, and was eager to tell us more about her life and share some of her stories. She was outwardly so charismatic and so kind, which I never would have expected. Sometimes, especially in the U.S. and especially in college, life moves very quickly and you don’t always have time to connect with a stranger one-on-one. Further, strangers can make some people wary and I know that I’m usually hesitant to respond to men or women I don’t know when I’m walking down the street. Yet, Lola was so open automatically, without any delay. I digress; on the night in question, Lola and her brother (Wilson), along with their friends, offered to take us dancing. We walked and talked with them for quite some time and I had a fairly long and substantial conversation with Lola herself. We spoke about our respective familial relationships, responsibilities we felt we had, and of course, politics and life in Cuba vs. the States. She had so many questions for me, and was so curious to learn more about my own upbringing, about Tufts, and how race affects my life in America. This was another component I didn’t quite expect; I walked into Havana with an open mind, wanting to learn about the experiences of Cubans, but I didn’t know they would want to know so much about us. Nonetheless, I was happy to swap stories with Lola, and I felt so comfortable telling her things, which struck me as odd because I 1) was speaking to her in my rudimentary college-level Spanish and 2) because I’m not typically prone to sharing life stories or personal tribulations. That night, I think I learned the most. Lola spoke about her family’s experience during Cuba’s Special Period, she spoke about the birth of her son, the pressure to provide for him and herself, and so much more. I spoke about my experiences as a working-class black woman in America, about my own family unit, economic and social pressures that my family has faced, and also so much more. All in all, the conversation touched me so deeply because it was so exemplary of the common saying: we have more in common than that which divides us. I think there are times in life that I’m prone to being pessimistic or hyper realistic, and the last few months of my life have been trying ones. I’ve had to work extra hours, I’ve faced personal obstacles, and I lost one of my parents unexpectedly. Thus, I walked into Cuba with an open mind, but a heavy heart. The bond that I formed with Lola, and the light she brought into my life in such a short span of time is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. When I think of Cuba, I’ll think of her and her family, of her kindness, her generosity with her space and her time, and my heart will feel lighter