After all that fun in the sun, we took a day and headed inland, to the towns where Marta and Pupy grew up. They didn't know each other in Cuba; they didn't meet until both had immigrated to New Jersey!
Cifuentes, a suburb or Santa Clara, was the first stop. Marta's maternal grandparents lived in this house.
A random street, with a cart and horse.
Many of Marta's relatives from her mom's side still live in the town. We had a wonderful gathering at her cousin Odalie's house. This is Odalie and her husband Juanito en la cocina. I'm not sure what he was explaining here, but he was a character. He told me to call him Johnny.
They are the parents of Beatriz, here on the left, and Juan Miguel, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family last year. Beatriz speaks English (and she's also studying French), so she was doing a lot of translating for me! Also pictured below are Marta's cousin Orestes, his children Orestes Jr. and Lisbet, and his wife Mayra.
They family made us, among other things, some AWESOME tamales and corn fritters, made from FRESH corn that had been run across this apparatus called a guayo. There was also fried pork, punch with fresh fruit which was so good, and cake. But those corn fritters and tamales were tops!!
A hummingbird AT REST in the lime tree, next to the banana tree. I had never seen one sitting still before.
Visiting on the side patio.
This was in the central patio. Here Beatriz is standing next to Emerita, who was married to Marta's mother's brother. Gretel is in the striped shirt, and is cousin to Beatriz, Lizbet, and Orestes, Jr.
And Gretel's son is Pedro Antonio. Here he is munching on an anon, a type of fruit; they were tasty!
Here was a group photo. (Deep breath) There was Emerita (wife of deceased Uncle Orestes, who mas Marta's mother's brother, and mother of Odalie, Violetta, and Orestes), the gentleman in the white shirt holding the little girl is Betzy's husband, with daughter (we couldn't remember their names), Beatriz standing with Andy and Sam, Orestes Sr., Lisbet, Orestes Jr., Betzy (red shirt) and Gretel (sisters), Otto, Marta, Pupy, Odalia, Violeta in the pink shirt (mother of Betzy and Gretel), Juanito (bottom center), and little Pedro Antonio.
Pedro Antonio giving his cousin un abrazo. She is so cute!
Everyone gathered on the street when it was time for us to leave. I think Sam was giving Juanito a high five.
We then made our way into Santa Clara to Felicia's house, also a cousin of Marta's. Knock-knock!
Here Andy stood in the doorway of the patio. You can see the triangular windows at the top of the door where we entered, on the other side.
Felicia read us few poems that someone had sent to her.
And she made a mean cup of Cuban coffee.
Another group shot before departing. Left to right: Yin (Felicia's father), Leticia (Felicia's daughter), Felicia, Otto, Sam, me, and Andy, Julian (Felicia's husband), and Maria (Felicia's mother), who is the last of Marta mother's siblings that is still alive. I'm not sure what the doggy's name was; if I woke up Andy and Sam right now to ask them I'm sure they would know.
The last house we visited was Pepito's house. Pepito's father and Pupy's father were brothers. Apparently they ran around together quite a bit back in the day. Here Pepito was picking a ripe guava for us.
Visiting in the kitchen.
And one more group shot. (Darn, turned out a little fuzzy!) We have, from left to right: Claudia (Orlando's wife), Orlando, Isis (Pepito's daughter, and Orlando and Lester's mother), Otto, Marta, Pupy, Marbelis (Lester's wife), Lester, and Pepito. Then the kiddos: Sam, Lisabel (Claudia and Orlando's daughter), Angel (Marbelis and Lester's son), and Andy.
After taking this picture, as we were starting to leave, I heard Pepito ask Pupy something in a hushed voice. Pepito then came up to me with a caring smile, looked me straight in the eye, and said slowly and deliberately, "My house is your house." I can't remember if we hugged or not, but I gave him a big smile for sure, and my best, "Muchas gracias!"
Cousins, Angel and Lisabel. She calls him Primo (cousin); so cute.
After we visited for a while, it was time to quickly go see some of the city before heading back to Cayo Santa Maria. Santa Clara was more of a city than I realized. Whenever I heard Marta tell stories about her childhood, I always imagined a house on a plot of land, where she would run down a ways to get to the next house. The houses in Santa Clara were right next to each other, kinda like the French Quarter, without the wrought iron balconies. I told Marta about my misconceptions, and she replied, "No! We were city girls!", referring to her and her sister, Teresita. :o)
The central plaza of Santa Clara. The large building on the right is a hotel, and still has bullet holes in its side from the revolution 50 years ago.
From the angle above, behind me was this theater.
This building was next to the theater.
And this was across the square from the theater. Marta attended high school here. Now she thinks it's used as a middle school.
Here was another building as we drove out of town. This could be on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Even though people haven't had the money to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, inside or out, for 50 years, I found the houses beautiful in Santa Clara. Rustic, at this point, but Marta said most houses were like the ones we visited. Where there's an interior patio (courtyard, if you will), and sometimes one in the back. You'd enter through a living room area, then have one or two bedrooms going towards the back of the house, a bathroom, and another bedroom, and a kitchen at the rear, with tall, impressive ceilings throughout. They were very charming, even in their somewhat run-down state.
Here were some pictures that I took from the back of the car as we zoomed down the road to get back to the resort. Royal palms grow wild all over the place in the countryside.
There are lots of OLD cars on the road. Many times these cars are used as taxis to give people rides from one town to another, as the public transportation isn't very good. So they take very good care of these cars, as they provide income.
Here comes another one - quick!
The driver's view. See the hilly terrain? Cuba even has mountains!
It was REALLY nice getting to meet all the family and see the towns that we had heard so much about. Everyone was SO welcoming.
Back to the resort we went, to a very different world.