Cuba | WYPR

Cuba

Dominique Maria Bonessi

My mother--or as I call her, Mami--was only 10 when she left Cuba in 1971, a dozen years after Fidel Castro came to power. She’s never been back. And this was my first trip to the island nation.

My cousin, Alejandro—whom I'd just met—and I ring the bell at Mami’s old house in Havana, Cuba. A grey-haired man—Gustavo--answers and greets us with raised eye brows. After some awkward introductions, he lets us in and we meet his wife, Yolanda.

Pictures of old Havana don’t do it justice.

Spectacular but crumbling architecture:  Colonial, Moorish and Art Deco facades with laundry hanging from most every window.  Ancient American cars, many tricked out with pastel paint jobs and running on Russian and Korean engine parts. Intoxicating rhythms of Afro-Cuban music performed everywhere from high-end restaurants to street fairs.