Christmas was an emotional time. The year before, I had received so many gifts – twice — some from Santa Claus and others for Three Kings Day. But most important, my grandparents were there. This year, my young parents were alone and could not afford too much since my dad did not have a job. Days before Christmas, we received an invitation for a Christmas party for Cuban children at the Gesu Church in downtown. Included was a card for a special gift, and I still remember how nice it felt, and the excitement of a child who had nothing. It also meant a lot to my parents.
On Sundays, were outings to Miami Beach, Lincoln Road and the parks, and we would take picnics. Once, we tried to sneak into Parrot Jungle but were told you had to be 5 to go in free. So the picnic was outside.
Months later, we had to leave and go to Puerto Rico to find a job for my dad. In all the years we lived in Puerto Rico, we came to Miami every year. The Magic City is the place where most Cubans want to be – for friends and family, Cuban food and pastelitos. But the love of America, the generosity of its people, and the opportunities given to us, made us Cuban Americans.
More than 40 years ago, in 1971, a small restaurant called Versailles came to be. Every time we arrived from Puerto Rico, my dad would take us from the airport to Versailles. Later, when I moved back, my friends and I would always go after the parties for café con leche. I sat there with my husband, then my boyfriend, for long conversations. I pushed my babies’ carriages through the tables, and when my children were teenagers, I took them for lunch and advice. Today, Versailles is the first place to stop when they come from college or from a long trip. Versailles is part of our Cuban culture in Miami.
In the ‘70s, my parents bought an apartment in Key Biscayne, which we call El Cayo. It was the place where I met my husband. We married 35 years ago and have three children. Today, I live in the Grove, and see bikers every day riding the same trails I used to ride to Matheson Hammock. And still my Cuban-American soul finds Miami is my home.