viernes, marzo 18, 2005

Nana, Su Vida (versión en inglés)

Nana Rodríguez was born in Cárdenas, Cuba, on March 20, 1923. The daughter of a railroad worker and union organizer and a very young housewife. The family moved to Havana, to an apartment on Infanta street. From the balcony of the Infanta apartment Nana saw, at age 9, a massacre against protesters.

She went to Law School at the University of Havana, and graduated with honors in 1945. She was outgoing, fun, and had many boyfriends. Once she was strolling with her girlfriends in a convertible, when one of them saw a good looking tourist and cried: "Americano, throw me a kiss". Nana rose from her seat and cried: "Americano, throw me a fart".

Nana was also active in student politics. She was a member of the direction of FEU, the University Student Federation, at the times the president of FEU was a sophomore, Fidel Castro (member, like Nana, of the Orthodox Revolutionary Party). Some times the activists met at Nana´s house, and her mother used to take away the guns the boys carried.

After graduation, Nana worked as an appointed defendant for criminal cases at the city of Camagüey, on Eastern Cuba. She lived at a boarding house. One day in 1947, her boarding house mates said a new boarder had arrived, a very handsome gentleman. A salesman. That night, when she saw the man, she exclaimed, loudly: "Is this the guy you were talking about? I don't find him that handsome!". The new boarder moved behind her seat, touched her shoulders, and said: "You are going to marry me". Nana answered: "Never".

Only three weeks later Nana and Abelardo married, though the religious wedding was suspended, since one of Abelardo's previous wives made herself present at the church. It was proven, afterwards, that both former Abelardo's weddings were only civil, and he was divorced. But by then, the couple was not interested on a religious marriage anymore. Abelardo was also a union organizer and the political situation in Cuba had gotten grim, so - a couple of years later- they decided to move to Mexico, where some of Abelardo's siblings lived.

In Mexico, Nana´s husband thrived as a salesman, first, and as a sales manager, later. She got into the business of furnished apartments (she rented them empty, furnished and decorated them, and rented them at a bigger price). On the fifties, Nana was still politically active. As a member of the Directorio 26 de Julio, she hid propaganda and dinamite at her house, which were to be used by Castro and his rebels, who sailed from Mexico to wage war against the tyrant Batista. She met Ché Guevara at a party and declared, later, that he had the deepest eyes.

Nana had two sons: an economist turned journalist and a pilot, which gave her six grandchildren. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed, she traveled to Cuba, with the older son, who was 5 then, and was offered "a high ranking job". She declined, because Abelardo -perhaps in a lucky strike of machismo- considered that Cuba was "too hot for living".

While her life in Mexico was getting better, things got worse in Cuba. Several of her classmates were executed, others fled; others yet, rose temporaly to high ranking jobs, only to be purgued later. As stories of terror developed, she lost her faith on the Revolution and loathed Castro.

But still, the Cuban Revolution had a delicious sweet reserved for Nana. One day in 1968 she received a call from a Cuban couple who wanted to rent an apartment. When she arrived, she felt she knew the man from somewhere. He begged for a discount. As a political refugee he was left penniless. Then his wife said something, calling him by his name. Then everything fell on Nana's head. So she replied: "I have given discounts to many Cuban refugees, but I wont give you one, Pablo N. When I was your girlfriend, you said you left me because I was not one of your social class. You said you wanted to marry a girl from your own class. I see you did. Now get out!". Pablo could only mumble Nana's maiden name, lower his head and leave. Revenge is a dish that tastes best when cold. Nana felt she was floating on air as she walked her way back home.

Nana was the soul of her neighborhood, for she always made many friends. She helped many of them with her solidarity, her relatively liberal counsel, and some swift actions bording on the heroic. She had sugar in her hips and made an amazing dancing couple with Abelardo. She talked all the time, often playing wittily with language. She was a loving mother. She had a great body and was openly proud of her legs and butt. She was vain and liked to spend, never saving for a rainy day. She liked to say dirty words. She smoked a lot, drank a lot of coffee and enjoyed a shot of tequila every now and then. She liked restaurants and disliked cooking. She liked sugar and disliked beet. She liked the oldtime revolutionaries but furiously hated her old pal Castro with all her soul. She read the newspaper every day, as a morning prayer. She read few books. She was manipulative yet easy to manipulate. She loved to go out ("I have dog's paws"). She never learned how to swim. Her favorite saying was: "May you have a lot of fun and spend only a little".

Nana's religion was the religion of the Cuban masses. A mixture of Catholicism and Santería, the religion brought to the Americas by the African slaves. She was a devout of Changó/St. Barbara, the god/goddess of sex, war, dance, thunder and the color red. Every 4th of December she cleansed her family, neighbors and friends, while dancing to the music. Both her children are dedicated to Changó.

Her furnished apartment business thrived in the 70s and until the late 80s. During those years, she was also active teaching crafts and helping low class women build their own businesses. Those were also the years -she was in her fifties and early sixties- when she traveled the most: to Europe, to Egypt, to South America. From the late 80s on, her business went on a downward slope. Still she managed, in the late 90s, the expensive task of getting her sister, and her sister's family, out of Cuba.

On May 2003, after 80 years of a full life, Nana suffered a cerebral stroke which had her between life and death for more than a month. She recovered almost fully -the doctors were particularly impressed by her capacity to regain speech- and lived a quality life until early March 2005, when another stroke impaired her again. Her second agony was mercifully quick. She died on March 14th.

At her wake, besides her family and friends of her children, you could see the whole neighborhood, old apartment leasers and several anonymous humble women who had been helped by her decades ago, and considered her their godmother. Her ashes are now with Abelardo's. And guarding them, the statue of Changó/St. Barbara.

I don't know what lies after death. If there is nothing, there is at least peace. If there is something else, then -as my wife said- my mother is in the Heaven of the Talkatives.

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