A White Rose to Tend

Rosita picked up the smooth stick from outside the door and carefully pared the black mud from her feet before she stepped inside, the mended nets drying on the scaffold Ronaldo made for them before the sickness had left him an invalid.

She set the bucket of cleaned shrimps on the stone hearth, then poked the remains of the fire in search of a live coal.  She was lucky and found one right away;  in the rainy season, she often had to resort to their worn flint and steel.

“What have you brought us, my White Rose?” said her grandfather, leaning on his cane.

“Shrimps,” she said. She did not say the rest.

No fish meant nothing to trade for beans and salt and flour. No fish meant that once again they would eat shrimp gleaned from the tidepools.

“In Havana,” said her grandfather for the hundredth time, “Camarones are considered a luxury. We are lucky tonight!”

What Pegman Saw: Cuba

Ah, Cuba. I steeped myself in research a few years ago while writing my (still unpublished) novel Miramar, which takes place in Cuba during the 1957-58 revolution in which Fidel Castro, Frank Pais, Camilo Cienfuegos, Huber Matos, and many others overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and threw out American corporations (including the gangsters Meyer Lansky and Santo Traficante). Like every other Cuban revolution, it was only partially successful. As always, the poor suffered the most. They still do.

The Cuban revolutionary poet José Martí said: “We light the oven so that everyone can bake bread in it.”

Martí penned the most famous poem of the 1895 revolution,  I Have a White Rose to Tend.  This brilliant work was adopted by Castro’s M-26-7 as their own.

Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.