I am guilty of not remembering them on this Memorial Day. They are not first and foremost on my mind even though in my heart I am grateful for all they have done in service to freedom. Those who lost blood, limbs, and lives for wars of other men’s greed and need for power and control are not the focus of the memories that are flooding my mind today. My mind is leafing through another world of memories as the taxi rolls through Cuba’s rolling green hills towards Trinidad. The sky is blackened by clouds as the sun sinks beneath the horizon and I can feel the anticipation of my driver building as we head into night on dangerous, pot hole strewn roads where farmers, bicycles and pedestrians pop out of the night alongside the road. He is driving faster, and as the rain starts to fall, I feel my body tense up as I share in his anxiety about traveling these roads past dark thirty with rain making for even worse conditions.
Over a decade of memories on this island nation are pouring through me as we ride in silence for the last hour of the trip to Trinidad from Havana. Years of images stored in the archives of my mind are flowing through my minds eye, bringing my senses to life more with each one. Black skinned muscles glistening in sweat, shaking and grooving to the infections Cuban rhythms, spinning me into bliss. The smells of horse manure, coffee and diesel fuel drifting through the ethers everywhere. The hard, uneven cobblestones beneath my feet. The sounds of horse hooves clicking over them. Children playing in the streets, laughing, running barefoot on smooth polished stones like it’s nothing. Faces of the men I’ve loved, the women who’ve been my sisters and allies, the songs of the Orishas echoing through my soul, the smiles of friends I adore and miss, the tears, and the aching in my heart when I am away from this island fill me with a world far removed from my own country’s heros and unappreciated warriors.
Forgive me brave warriors who defended our liberty and sacrificed your own lives in honor, but the Memorial Day I’m having is far removed from those battles and tragedies. My Memorial Day Parade is all about a love so mysteriously magical and profound that I fail to be able to put words to it. The love of one little woman for an island nation and it’s culture that is, like you, too often forgotten, neglected and uncared for in it’s struggles. Today these memories haunt me, knowing my own strange form of a PTSD of sorts that I’ve been existing in since leaving the island over two years ago when CoVid hit.
I have been afraid to return, afraid of what I will see and be forced to know of the battles the Cuban people are facing now. A few hours ago, I landed and my feet carried me across blazing tarmac from the plane with the pungent smells of tobacco, rum, sweat, diesel and that distinct smell of Cuba rushing into my being, comforting me as they enlivened my senses once again. In an hour or so, I’ll roll into Trinidad, knowing that The Breath of Cuba will carry me again into new worlds of love and remembrances in every moment. New memories to be made on the backs of over a decade of friendships and moments. I am ready and open to receive all this journey has to share with me.