If you ask me about my trip to Cuba, you will most likely be met with a longer than usual pause. It is a multifaceted conversation that is not about the white sands of the playa, or even the dreamed-of-seeing vintage American cars—it is above all about the people. The gracious captive people of Cuba. I came away and back to America with a larger and heavier heart.
Meet Ana. At a stop along the way to Viñales, the mountainous green acres of tobacco plantations, I made my way over to the ever-coveted baño. I say that because if you have travelled almost anywhere but in America, there isn’t a Starbucks, Burger King or MacDonald’s on every corner [thank God] and at the same time I can appreciate that piece about those places.
Ana was the tender of los baños. A shitty job. And yet—this little lady was a beacon of light, her smile wide and wonderful. Her pride showed as she took the 25 centavos for three squares of single ply toilet paper [smallest rolls on the planet] and gestured with a welcome arm into her baño.
As I was leaving we spoke [in Spanish] and I offered her a polite ‘gracias’ and she a ‘por nada’ in return. I noticed we were both wearing a flirty flowery skirt which prompted a query of her name. Ana. I go on to tell her my name is Loriana [my travel name combining my first and middle name of Ann, just sounds better than plain ole Lori] and the priceless promise of connection begins. I wish her a felize año nuevo and she offers back a blessing that I have only heard from my Puerto Rican auntie. She says to me, “Salud, amor y dinero…” And before she can continue out of my mouth comes, “…y el tiempo para gastarlo.” Translated into English means, “Health, love and money, and the time to spend it.”
The hair on my right arm stands straight up and she sees that and reaches over to touch it. We laugh and relish in that moment of grace and connection. I wanted to pack her up, put her in my suitcase and bring her home with me.
Ana— a travel angel.