Sara M. López

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Left to Right – Armando, Maria Luisa, Nancy or “Exuberancia de la Calidad Celestes Puréense,” Sara, Carlito



This photo was taken in my great-grandmother, Maria Luisa’s house in Santiago, Cuba. It was one of the biggest mansions in Santiago.  Currently, the government of Cuba has the house and has turned it into a famous restaurant. In this picture from left to right you can see Armando, Maria Luisa’s son. Next to him, Maria Luisa.  Sitting in the chair is my Maria’s Luisa’s daughter and my grandmother, Nancy, who is holding my mother, Sara. On Nancy’s right is her brother, Carlito. My grandmother actually later changed her name to Nancy, but when they took the picture, her name was Exuberancia de la Calidad Celestes Puréense.

Maria Luisa was a hundred years old when she passed away and thankfully I was able to enjoy her and her many stories. I called her taci taci and she called me la puchungita.

My grandmother describes the photograph and tells me how beautiful the house was and of her cherished memories. The columns in the picture were made of marble. She remembers that the chandelier was one of my great-grandmother’s favorite items in the house. It was a gift from my great-great-grandmother.  This very chandelier still hangs from that ceiling.

The vase underneath the chandelier was a gift that my great-grandfather bought in Italy for Maria Luisa. Maria Luisa looked inside it once and found a charm bracelet her husband had hidden there for her. Maria Luisa had the maids clean this vase twice a day, because for her it represented more than a vase. She claimed the vase was love.

My great-grandparents were Fidel Castro’s grandmother and grandfather. Castro, who at the moment is the governor of Cuba, was raised under this same roof and spent most of his childhood there. In that very same living room, Fidel celebrated his nineteenth birthday, which now she recalls with regret. She told me that there were so many relatives in the house that one of the neighbors called the police thinking something had happened.

One of the things I have learned from my family is that family is the most important part of us, that if we can sit together to have a dinner we are a blessed family, indeed. In this living room, the first and last Sunday of every month, the whole family met for a special dinner. What made this dinner special is that my great-grandfather had everyone share what he or she thanked God for the most. Then everyone would say grace. On the last Sunday dinner, they collected toys or clothes to donate to the poor. My mother believed that my great-grandfather was wealthy, because he was the most charitable person she had ever known.

The reason why this photograph is so important to my family now is because my grandparents always told me that every inch of your house, no matter how big or small, should be blessed with love, care, and family.  All of my family left Cuba, their home, their roots, but grandfather always says his heart has remained in Cuba. I promised my grandmother that someday I would visit Cuba and step into the house, which has kept so many my family’s memories and joys. My grandmother Nancy told me, that the day I see the house, to please pray and bless it for the last time.  The picture will always be a reminder of my promise.



  1. The story behind this picture is amazing! I something had to stop and tell someone what I was reading. It’s really amazing how a picture, a moment, or a place from the past can take you places your never thought you could go. The story of the house and the things that happened there were again, amazing. It’s really cool to read about their lives and to know how was Fidel Castro when he was young. It’s refreshing to read something about him that is not related to Cuba’s status and also to see another perspective of him and the family he comes from.

  2. What a very good story. I loved this picture, I first saw only and old picture but it is interesting the history that a photograph can have. The symbolism of love charaty and the symbolism of family is something very special that even a picture could remain from old generations to new genarations.

  3. Very interesting story Sara, I’d say full of surprises and love. It would be nice to know more about your story cause it got me curious about the whole thing. I have to admit is also kind of mysterious the thing about Fidel. I think you also have a pretty united family as you talked about their passion to gather all together and have a nice time, is good to know people still help others.

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