Enrique Flores Galbis

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Enrique's Story

Fear, faith, and the sea turtles.

I was eight years old when my parents decided that we would be safer in Miami, even though they had no clear idea what actually awaited us there. At the airport, my father, very serious but still managing to smile, handed us each a box of good Cuban cigars. My mother was straining to hold it all back, her face quivering like a rain drop that’s about to burst. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to understand the power of all that water she was holding back that day.

I tried to act nonchalant, cool like my older brothers, but when they opened the door to the runway the fumes and noise of the airplane engines came roaring into the waiting room like an angry animal. My cool started to melt.

As I ran across the hot tarmac, trying to catch up to my brothers, my legs went numb, feet left the ground, I was rising. Floating behind them, pulled along like a balloon, I floated up the stairs to my seat, to Miami, past the man who took my box of cigars and then gave me ten dollars. I floated into camp, to my uncles house, through schools, jobs, a marriage.

Then one day I floated back to Havana, and as I walked the resonant brittle streets, I felt a strange sensation buzzing up my legs, shooting arrow straight to my heart. Laying in bed that night I remembered that before we left, my father had taken us to a moonlit beach where the sea turtles bury their eggs. He was hoping that we’d get to see them hatch. He told us that the peseta sized sea turtles will float away on the restless current and then years later return. I realized then that the feeling coursing up my legs was the same magnetic pull of true home that will guide the wayfaring turtle back to the same grain of sand on the same beach, and the same brittle empty shell where it all started. With my feet firmly planted on the ground, I came to understand my need to float, and the reason I became an artist.

And for the first time, I was conscious of the slightly bitter taste of the exile’s nostalgia I was raised on. I found this poem in the journal I kept on that first trip back to my magnetic home.

Habana Dulce

Sweet Havana,

brittle honeycomb,

paper thin walking bones.

All that remains in this sinking reliquary,

are the hushed amber memories of honey flesh,

and the ghosts

With their satchels of sighs

they brush my cheek as they whisper by

to scribble over thresholds stuttered monologues

that rustle the veils.

And the translucent walls speak,

of chance encounter, sudden rains,

a fist in the pocket, a cloud of cologne.

Dropped coins, and youth in the gutter.

The broken hearted pray for redemption,

but they'll settle for revenge,

luminous confection in this carnival of dust.

Thank-you for this site, where we can reach out and touch those who truly understand.

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Enrique says: Dreaming Havana, Collision of Memory and Fact, Opening 4/19,6-9, Williams McCall Gallery,Miami Beach,to 5/6 Enrique Flores-Galbis,90 Miles to Havana.

Status update | Apr 18th 2014

Congratulations, Enrique! I just found out about the Pura Belpre Award today and wanted to make sure to add my voice to those who appreciate your work. To have among us Pedro Pans a talented and gifted writer/artist is indeed a privilege that I hope many more Pedro Pans will come to appreciate. My granddaughters Erin and Jamie are loving the read and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Great characters that live on long after one closes the book. Muchas gracias por la obra tan linda! Adrianne

Message by Adrianne Miller | Jan 29th 2011

Enrique has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jan 23rd 2011

Congratulations, Enrique.

Message by Carlos A Cruz Martinez | Jan 20th 2011

CONGRATULATIONS & ENHORABUENA, Enrique, for the well-deserved honor of the Pura Belpré prize. I feel proud every time one of my Pedro Pan brothers and sisters (and their children) achieve recognition for their talent and their work. There have been many proud moments for our Pedro Pan family in the past, and they keep coming. Here I also want to post a little more information: The Pura Belpré Awards go to Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. "90 Miles to Havana is based on the author’s experience as one of 14,000 children in Operation Pedro Pan. Moving from Cuba to the refugee camp in Miami, Flores-Galbis’ writing is engaging, fast paced, and colorful with well-developed characters drawn from his personal experiences.” I am sorry I will not be able to be at your presentation on the 22, but I'll have a friend bring a book for you to autograph. Thank you, Enrique.

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Jan 12th 2011

Enrique has updated their profile.

Status update | Jan 12th 2011

Enrique says: I'm proud to announce that 90 Miles to Havana has been awarded the Pura Belpre Award by the American Library Association. See you January 22.

Status update | Jan 12th 2011

Enrique says: Will be in Miami for Jan. 22, book signing and talk at Books and Books, Coral Gables. Hoping to meet some of my PP brothers and sisters.

Status update | Jan 11th 2011

Enrique has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jan 11th 2011

Enrique says: With 90 Miles to Havana well into it's second printing I can go back into the studio%u2014 mind at ease. Thank you for your support.

Status update | Dec 28th 2010

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