"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world . . ."

Manati_house073There were only about a dozen or so houses in the tiny port town of Manatí, Cuba in the early 1930's.
This one held a family with the last name Perez-Puelles. The father of this household was the customs official of that little town. He was my grandfather. The few residents of the town were all connected because of their service in the shipyards.

The father of the 2nd family, Spanish immigrants - the Prietos, was a big, strong Asturian who's job it was to load and unload the big ships that came into that port.
I should interject here that Cuba boasted a huge surge of immigrants. 3rd in the world at the time.  It was literally a land of opportunity.

Mapofcuba1_3The port of Manatí was such a small place, though, that everyone was connected somehow to the business of loading and unloading trade vessels. The families all knew one another. It was impossible not to.  I am not sure of the count, but I think it was about 18 families.  (The spot is marked by the yellow triangle on this map.) Far from Havana, remotely located. Populated by the workers in the shipyards.
Some of the last names from there: Perez-Puelles, Suris, Prieto, Acuña, El Bolo, Lechuga, Lopez, have been familiar to me my entire life. They are the characters that make up the stories of my mother's youth in that tiny port town of Manatí.

P51945071 Fast forward 70 years, and two weeks ago at Cuba Nostalgia.  Because of the magic of the internet, I recognize the sweet older couple who are standing in front of the Babalú booth looking on with pride - they are Val's parents.

So, I introduce myself to them: "Soy la nieta de Perez-Puelles." ("I am the grand-daughter of Perez-Puelles.")  He stops and stares, shows me the goose-bumps on his arms and proceeds to lock me in a big bear hug.  She immediately starts weeping. I was pretty composed until that moment. 

We started asking questions, telling stories. He told stories with the same familiar names in them. The ones that I had grown up hearing.  "When your grandparents moved out of that house, my family moved in."
What are the odds, I wonder? That the descendants of two families from that tiny spot, who actually lived in the same little house, and now live on opposite coasts, would come, not to just find each other on the internet, but to become friends, connected in that amazing Cuban way.

Ojosbabalu This is why I consider Val Prieto, not just my fellow blogger and friend, but I consider him family. (BTW, we only met face-to-face 2 weeks ago  =D)

And, no. I don't believe in coincidences. I believe in intelligent design.  I am grateful to Val for inviting me to come over and cook on his blog on Thursdays - this was before he knew that our families went back 70 years together.  I am grateful to be part of the Babalú family of contributors. I am grateful for the moment when Val's dad looked me in the eye and spoke a blessing to my family from his (yes, I wept like the little girl I am =D). I am grateful for my mother's amazing memory. But most of all, I'm grateful to God who obviously set a chain of events in motion over 70 years ago to bring us all to this place and time. It gives me tremendous comfort to know that my life is in Good Hands.

P51742251I'm humbled to find myself in such powerful company. The list there to the right of  Smart Cuban Bloggers includes these and so many more that I respect and admire.
Left to Right:
Ziva, Blog for Cuba
Val, Babalublog
Henry, Cuban-American Pundits

Oh, and yes, that's me. The one with the tears in her eyes.  Amazed at the chain of events and good fortune that have brought me to this place where I am part of something so much bigger than myself.