Gloria's daughter in Cuba

Gloria’s daughter Amy, at the home of her great-grandparents, Mama and Bibi, in Havana, Cuba – December 2011
Photo credit: Amy Strassburger VanStee

I have longed to see Cuba again since the day I left in February 1961. Sadly, I have not been able to yet. As long as the island remains communist under Castro’s rule, a little fear lurks in the back of my mind, reminding me how hard it was to escape my homeland when we did—and what if…? So I wait, hoping that I will be able to see mi Cuba libre—my free Cuba—one more time before I die.

Balcony in the home of my grandparents, Mama and Bibi, in Havana, Cuba - December 2011

Balcony in the home of Gloria’s grandparents in Havana, Cuba
Photo credit: Amy Strassburger VanStee

But I did get to see Cuba recently through my daughter Amy’s eyes. She and her husband went to Havana in 2011 through a licensed people-to-people cultural exchange program. "Just in case," I told her, as I drew floor plans of my grandparents’ home in Havana, where I lived for a time, and of my family’s home next door. I also gave her two pictures of me as a child in my grandparents’ home. "This will be your proof," I told her.

Their tour guide, a staunch communist, took Amy under his wing, calling her pichoncita—little dove—when she shared with him my story. He offered to drive her and her husband personally to see where I had lived, and he introduced my daughter to the people living in my grandfather’s home today, saying, "We have Cuban blood coming home to us." The little dove, a part of me, who flew back home.

Amy and her husband toured the entire home with the help of my floor plan, which described each room as it was when I was a girl. When I later saw a picture of the living room with my grandparents’ crystal chandelier still hanging there sparkling, fifty-one years later, I was overcome with melancholy. She also saw the nearby park where I used to roller skate and, briefly, the inside of my Sacred Heart School. The amazing pictures my daughter brought home to me are like a lost treasure, found.