Wanderer, There is No Road: Remembering Juan Roura-Parella and the Lovely Teresa

I was a student both of Professor Juan Roura-Parella and his wife, the lovely Teresa. Professor Roura taught me about aesthetics and philosophy, Goya’s black paintings, the poetry of Antonio Machado, and what it means to be a political exile. The lovely Teresa taught me classical Spanish guitar, to move gracefully, and how to look elegant in high heels.

I was born in Cuba and grew up speaking Spanish with my family in New York. When I went to Wesleyan University in 1974, I was not yet eighteen. I’d never gone to camp or lived on my own. My mother was in tears. But my father was irate that I was going to college against his will; he believed a girl should wait at home until a man came to marry her. After a tense, scary, and silent three-hour drive from our rental apartment in Queens to the leafy campus in Middletown, Connecticut, I couldn’t wait for Mami and Papi and my younger brother, Mori, to drop me off at the dorm. I was eager to start living an independent life in the grand feminist style I’d been hearing about in the news, maybe not burn my bra, but stand tall, brave, and sure of myself, and never have to depend on a man to take care of me. Read more

Searching for Home

There was a time – I was still young, in my mid-20s – when I thought I was going to be a perennial traveller, a woman without a country or permanent address, a vagabond. Not that I was ever the backpacker type. I liked lace blouses and high heels too much. In my fantasy image of myself, I floated from place to place in long flowing gowns. In real life, I travelled heavy, lugging way too many suitcases wherever I went. Read full article…

The Bridge from Cuba

The night of February 20, 2014 an overflow crowd of passionate Cuban-American fans awaited the island writer, Leonardo Padura, at the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Books & Books, the organizer of the event, together with the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University, had wisely foreseen the need to move the reading to the larger location down the street from the landmark Miami bookstore.

Leonardo Padura has achieved an international following for his Mario Conde detective series. More recently, his long and probing historical novels have won him a new literary fame in the United States, including a recent write up in The New Yorker. An American edition of his work, The Man Who Loved Dogs, ostensibly about Leon Trotsky and his assassin Ramón Mercader, but ultimately a profound meditation on utopian ideals, was just released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Read more

With Felicia and Edmundo in Israel

Edmundo Desnoes

I knew who they were the minute I saw them at JFK Airport. He was tall, white-haired and white-bearded, elegant in a black turtleneck, and she was slender and sleek and had a well-traveled air about her. They were no longer young but you could never call them old. He stood too straight and she looked out at the world with too much curiosity. Later I learned they were both 82.

“Felicia? Edmundo?” I asked.

She turned to me with a smile. “Yes, it’s us.”

Felicia Rosshandler is the author of Passing Through Havana, an autobiographical novel about her German-Jewish family’s escape to Cuba at the time of the Holocaust and her unceasing search for home.

Edmundo Desnoes is the author of the novella, Memorias inconsolables(Inconsolable Memories), which later inspired the screenplay for the 1967 film, Memorias del subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment), directed by Tomás Gutierrez Alea, one of Cuba’s greatest filmmakers. Read more

Returning from Japan

Everyone wanted to know: Is this your first time?

Yes. My first time in Tokyo. First time in Japan. First time in Asia.

I’m the kind of traveler who likes to go to the same places over and over. I rarely go to places where I won’t be able to talk to people. I’ve made short trips to Turkey and Poland, the ancient homelands of my grandparents, and to Israel, where I have family ties. Mostly I travel to places where I can speak Spanish, my native tongue—Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba, the land of my childhood. Read more