The Miami Generation

To Remember

"... the scene of a memory that was still curiously raw after forty-plus years"

Juan A Martinez, 2014

Conceived in the waters of Varadero, exile via air from Havana. These places and elements are the alpha and omega of a decade long and bittersweet life in Cuba. In between, rituals of passage: Go to school in the morning, church on Sundays, playground on most afternoons, bakery for bread and butcher shop daily, barbershop once a month, beaches in the summer, traveling circuses and fairs every year in the fall or spring, grandmother’s house on the weekend. Play with spinning tops, glass marbles, diamond kites, USA popular culture toys, and above all baseball; Cuba’s appropriated national sport. Discover the comfort and conflicts of family, friendship, puppy love; the pleasure of touching your penis, riding cars/buses/ trains, looking out windows into the mystery of vision.

Two tethered swings tied together amidst a spider web of shadows on the sand.

A dozen loaves of Cuban bread, dragonfly perched on one, seen inside a protective glass case to keep them warm and bug free.

An old red pedal car, viewed from empty driver seat, in soft window light.

Side by side, three aging icons of Christ himself touching and pointing to his open heart.

Humid living room with decorated tile floor and furniture to spare, seen in the morning light.

Shadowed clothesline full of unidentifiable linen, sharply silhouette on a textured rocky ground.

Do memories reside in places, objects? Do similar places/objects create ricochet memories?

Superman figurine wrapped in plastic and held in front of a concrete and bronze monument to USA power with an eagle on top.

(Where was Superman when the monument to the Maine was debased in Havana?)

Glass marbles placed on parched partly shadowed earth.

(“What happened to my playmates, the butcher's three sons from next door?”)

Chewed mirado pencil with sharpener, held squarely against backlit worn school desk.

(Tucked in the collective memory of Cuban children of the 1950s there is a mirado pencil)

Figurine catcher at home plate looking at an empty field and low puffy clouds.

(“Will I see the Havana and Almendares teams play again?”)

Toy locomotive held in alignment with real tracks at desolate intersection.

(Daydreaming about the train which took the family from Casablanca to Matanzas)

Reenacted memories in precise full color photographs conjure an ever-present distant past.

A b/w photo of a three-year old boy, held in front of sliding glass door with view of ocean, horizon lines of both images in sync with each other.

(“Beyond that horizon is Varadero, where I was conceived under water, according to my father, in December 1950")

A b/w photo of a boy and girl couple behind a cake, held in front of display case with numbered birthday candles.

("My fourth birthday and first girlfriend Anita")

Bluish photo of man by outdoor produce stand, held against fruit case in indistinct food store, bananas prominent in both.

("My father in his first job as street corner fruit vendor")

A toy Pan American airplane, held against a b/w photo of Havana's Rancho Boyeros airport, the reflecting flash simulating the sun low in the sky.

("Hey look, the last Cuban sunrise,” said a lady in front of the line. Another replied, “They say the American sun is different from ours")

A shadowed fifty years old passport, held in front of the Freedom Tower building in Miami, on a clear day.

(“In 1961, I began my monthly visits to El Refugio, as the building was known then among Cuban exiles, to obtain my family’s share of free food: cheese, powered milk, and canned meat”)

Old b/w photos incorporated into new color ones, subjects related, keep memories flowing through to an emphatic now.

Men assembling freshly painted Ferris wheel on a cloudless light blue sky.

Bust portrait of a young black man holding tobacco leaves, smoking cigar, and wearing his hair like a crown.

A homeless person’s bed, made of stained white sacks, worn shoes adjacent, lays empty on entrance to building with dirty blue door and dirtier steps.

Close-up of a person lying on step, head and feet unseen, with one arm on his chest and the other resting on the sidewalk, androgynous, pants bursting at the waist, barely held by thin rope.  

Del Valle thinking of Havana through Walker Evans' eyes.

Recharging Evan’s 1933 Havana photos with intimate knowledge of his predecessor’s work and his own memory slivers of a life in 1950s Havana.

Capricious fifty-year old memories of the first ten come to mind, solicited or spontaneous, to make sure there is no forgetting. Distance in time and place collapses for loaded seconds. Absence coalesces with presence exuding in the case of Dell Valle’s photos a unique sharp focus melancholy.  

The notable photographs by Eduardo del Valle in his memoir Childhood Memories from the Other Side of the Water make visible, with precision and poetry, an approximation of memories from long ago. They pay fitting homage to that something in the mind that always stays.