IMAGES | DESCRIPTION
The Last Wish / Ul Ultimo Deseo
Performance | 1997 | Galeria Tejadillo 214, Havana, Cuba
When my mother and her sisters were younger, they worried about what part of the world they could live in. They hardly ever spoke about returning to their homeland. They had never had riches there to dream of retrieving. But as time goes on and they grow older, they no longer worry about where to are going to live, but about where they will die.
Their mother, my grandmother, was born in Oriente province in 1902. Orphaned as a child, she began to sew professionally at thirteen, helped raise her younger siblings, and was forced to marry before the age of twenty. Supporting her five children as a seamstress and withstanding frequent abuse from her husband, she managed to finish high school at forty. When she saw that her second daughter, my mother, was strong enough to fend for herself, she encouraged her to leave their town and never come back. My mother, then seventeen, took her first train ride to Havana, began to work and study, and in one year brought her mother and siblings to the capital. Eleven years later my mother boarded her first plane and went to the United States with twenty five dollars and a suitcase of clothing my grandmother made for her. Nine years after that, she sent for my grandmother. In all my childhood I never heard her express regret at having left. Yet just after her eightieth birthday, suffering from loss of hearing and memory, she boarded a plane, flew to Barcelona to meet distant cousins, checked into a hotel, lay down, and died in the night.
When I arrived at the hotel three days later, I discovered she had left not a suitcase behind, only her glasses and a small purse.