The Gift of Aché Part II

[tweetmeme source=”connergo” only_single=false]Arriving into Miami from Havana is always a bit nerve wracking, even for someone as experienced and legal as me – more so when you’re trailing a huge crate with unknown contents. As always, I chose my immigration line carefully, studiously avoiding women, Latinos, and people of color (who are more likely to harbor Cuba-based bias or carry chips on their shoulder as a result of their lowly status in the US socio-economic food chain). 

I breezed through immigration with three magic words (‘I’m a journalist’) and headed straight to the bay marked oversized baggage. In flawless Cuban Spanish (that always touches officials in Miami, the overwhelming majority of whom hail from the island), I asked after my crate; within minutes it was on a cart and I was on my way towards US Customs.

“What’s that?” they asked.

“A piece of art. Do I need to declare it?”

“How much did it cost?”

“Nothing, it was a gift,” I said, pulling out another magic answer at just the perfect moment.

“You don’t need to declare it or pay duty.”

(ACHÉ #5).

“But you do need to have it inspected. Proceed to Area 15.”

As I wheeled my way to Area 15 (naturally – or perhaps dyslexically – I was thinking of aliens and top secret shenanigans), my confidence grew that everything was going to work out. Just one more step and I will have fulfilled my obligation.

I entered the large, brightly-lit section known as Area 15; several Customs agents milled about and there was a giant X-ray machine. A strapping Latino officer approached. He circled the crate, asking me what was inside.

“A piece of art. It was my friend’s who died and I’m bringing it to her brother.”

Delivered in my Cuban Spanish, I knew this would tug at the heart strings since every Cuban with family divided has experienced the problem of wills and politically-complicated property transfer.

He nodded non-committally. “It lacks the proper paperwork. It hasn’t been fumigated.”

‘Fumigated?!’ I thought, missing a few beats. Of course fumigation is a logical and necessary factor in this globalized, bug-infested world – but a factor I hadn’t accounted for.

I smiled. “I hadn’t even thought of that.” I didn’t add that had I thought of it, Adam and I would have invented some kind of fumigation markings for the crate, a lo cubano, back in Havana.

The Strapping Agent went to get the jefe.

I started to fret (and sweat).

The jefe arrived, the situation explained. He was short and made me nervous: a pint-sized Latino jefe is ripe combination for a Napoleon complex. I added that Angela’s brother was waiting for me and Yemayá just on the other side of those glass doors. He took a turn around the crate, pried a corner ajar and peeked inside.

He paused, took a step back, and waved me through.

Yemaya, safe and sound in Miami

I wheeled my precious, unwieldy cargo through the doors and out of the terminal. There was Angela’s brother, in a big yellow rental truck, idling at the curb.  

(ACHÉ #6).

As I write this, Triunfo de Yemayá hangs in David’s house, testament to our collective aché.



Filed under Americans in cuba, bureacracy, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Expat life, Living Abroad, Travel to Cuba

12 responses to “The Gift of Aché Part II

  1. Congratulations Conner. Love your blog.

  2. Kalena

    Mahalo for the gift of Ache, and now that I understand the word, that wonderful paladar in Cienfuegos makes sense – from the friendly and impeccable staff to the delicious food and right to that amazing anejo in the carajillo, topping a fun evening, it was a tour de force!

    • Ive seen Ache in Cienfuegos, but never eaten there. What did you have? Prices? Location? Please share; I’m due in 100 Fires this summer. Thanks for writing in.

  3. I’m so happy you made it through! I was hoping for you & Yemayá since the first post about this adventure.

  4. You should be so proud of yourself, Conner. I wish there was more people like this who’d go to all that trouble for the people they care about. 🙂

  5. Gracias everyone! I have word from Florida that Yemaya is now properly hung and spreading joy on that corner of the world. I’ll post a picture soon!

  6. Quepasa

    That went smooth 🙂

  7. johnabbotsford

    So glad that there was a story with a happy ending!
    A nice reward for your perseverence.

    • My thoughts exactly, although now Im ready for the “nice, talented agent able to resolve a fat advance for my book” type of reward for my perseverance! Cheers.

  8. pamela simon

    Conner, I just love your blog so much that I am spending my evening reading it instead of reading “In the Garden of Beasts”. I love this blog entry about your friend’s beloved piece of art. Who made this for her and why was it a headboard rather than something to hang on the wall? Was it created to protect her while she slept? It is such a beautiful piece.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh Pamela, thanks so much for commenting on this post especially. The owner of the piece was a very dear friend of mine who died a year ago in August and Saturday was her bday, so she has been in my thoughts mucho lately. The artist was named Maria Sanchez and it WAS made to hang on the wall, but was made during the height of the Special Period when there was little wood/canvas/paper to create art – so she made it out of what she had on hand. It IS a beautiful piece, made especially for a beautiful friend.

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