Every summer since I was young, my family and I travel to a little island in the Bahamas called Elbow Cay with some of our dear friends. One of these friends, Luly, was born in Cuba. Her family was exiled from their home when Castro seized power. I’ve frequently asked Luly about her family’s stories and what it was like to adjust to life in the US while being in exile. Her father was the owner of a tobacco farm and she told me she always dreamt of having a painting of a man tending to his fields.
I’ve always been interested in the Cuban revolution. Since I was a small girl, Cuba has enthralled me. Maybe it’s the gorgeous, rich music (example: Buena Vista Social Club), the coffee, the natural beauty, or the way the country has become stuck in time. I once flew over Cuba en route to Costa Rica, and my face was practically glued to the window. For me, Cuba is at the tippity top of my “want to visit” list. It’s a land with a history of both abundance and oppression.
A few weeks before going to the Bahamas and seeing Luly, I began work on the painting she’d described. The completed painting is a 16×20 watercolor, and I have to admit, it’s one of my favorite works to date. I sat completely focused and painted it in a marathon session (start to end in six hours!); and boy, was I happy and exhausted when it was finished. It was a project that reminded me of why I love painting so much- I get to put into the world what I wished existed and in turn, create gifts for others.
When I gave the painting to Luly, she was very surprised and cried happy tears. I did too, for I love to share this gift I have been given.