Conner’s Letra del Año

I’m back in the swing of things here in Havana and if I’m reading the signs/between the lines correctly, it promises to be a memorable year. Already some unpredictable ($200,000 cars?!) and unexpected (Fidel rolling up at Romerillo?!) things have happened, about which I promise to post at a later date.

‘Surprising’ and ‘fast-paced’ are the catch phrases for the foreseeable future as far as I can tell. Indeed, 2014 has proven illuminating and educational, adrenaline-rushed and not a little bit hectic – and we’re only a few weeks in.

It’s exciting – I’m excited – but I get the feeling that this year is going to obligate us to work, HARD, to maintain balance; we will have to be master jugglers these next 12 months. It will be tricky keeping all our professional, personal, and spiritual balls in the air, but if we stay focused and true to course, I think the payoff will be well worth it.

In an effort to measure the tenor of our times and steer a tentative course through the exotic, but potentially choppy, waters of 2014, I offer you my Letra del Año. For those readers unfamiliar with this annual declaration, it’s a collaborative document issued each new year by the major Afro Cuban religious associations. It contains everything from conjugal advice and health warnings to what foods and saints should be offered and attended.

While I’m not an adherent, I, like innumerable others on the island, pay attention to each year’s Letra. When I read 2014’s, I was a bit shocked (and encouraged – maybe I’m on the right track!) to learn that one of the sacramental foods this year is the pomegranate. Not only is this extraordinarily rare in Cuba (so an odd sacrament, for any year), I’d bought one and shared it with a friend on New Year’s Eve before this year’s Letra was published.

And will my Letra del Año be prophetic? Maybe not at all or possibly in part, only time will tell, but here’s my take on 2014 and what we might expect:

Love is in the air:
I’ve known Alejandra since I moved here. She’s both family and friend and a helluva woman. She lives with her aging parents, works in a thankless job for 20 bucks a month and has struggled with mental health issues over the years. For the first decade I knew her, she was completely alone – ‘pobrecita,’ they said. I don’t remember her ever going on a date, even. Then, a year ago, Alejandra met Evaristo, a good and good looking guy, who helped around the house, got along with the parents, and had a decent job. And for whatever reason known only to them (or not even – love, after all, is one of life’s great and wonderful mysteries), they clicked and swooned and grooved.

Last weekend, they tied the knot in a beautifully simple ceremony in Alejandra’s front yard. The look on their faces, on that of their parents, siblings and every last guest was pure bliss. You could feel the love before the first teardrops of joy fell. I have another amiga getting married next month and a dear friend of mine for whom the seeds of love have been slowly, carefully sown over the last year or so and are about to bloom. Another few couples are marrying over the summer and well, all you need is love, right? I say: let’s spread it and do our part to silence the bitter and hateful.

Healthier habits and routines:
Whether or not related to love and matters of the heart, I foresee folks around me (and myself included, hopefully, but unlikely), adopting healthier habits. Smoking and drinking less, sleeping longer and more soundly, eating healthier and doing some exercise will be in the mix. Watching less TV (no matter how classic or well-made) and reading more and better literature fall under this rubric, as does consuming less “news”, which just serves to make us more anxious and at the same time apathetic if you ask me.

This will be a year of travel, people. Already my trip calendar is filling up fast, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ohio, Hawaii and Ireland on my itinerary. Cuban friends are also planning to travel (some ‘definitively’, as we say here, leaving us holding our aching hearts) to the usual places – Mexico, Miami, Madrid – but also to Canada, Germany, Amsterdam, and Thailand. Seems like everyone took a turn around the block with their luggage this December 31st, one of our year-end traditions/superstitions.

Consolidating creativity: I and many people I know put (too) many wheels in motion in 2013 – work projects and personal relationships, new businesses and novel challenges. Last year saw lots of this and now the time has come to focus, buckle down, and channel all this creativity into attainable goals. It’s important to emphasize attainable, since the majority of mi gente are overachievers and tend to set themselves up for defeat with all the complex, long-term (some life-long!) goals they set for themselves. We have the energy, we have the intelligence, we’re motivated and we’ve set 2014 up for success – let’s make it happen, one milestone at a time.

Time management challenges: Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s overworked, over-scheduled and just rushed overall? In my world, it looks and feels that way. Keeping everything together, tying up loose ends, leaving time for the people and things we love – this is going to be difficult in 2014. This is especially true in Havana and New York, the two places where I pitch my tent so to speak and where the rhythm of life is different and more hectic (increasingly so in Cuba) than other latitudes. Managing time, while still living in the moment and being present, will be even more difficult. Slowing down to smell the roses, sing to babies, and ask after our neighbors will be important this year. Please remind me when I forget.

Last but not least: have a fabulous and healthy 2014 everyone.

Let life be peachy.


Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban economy, Cuban idiosyncracies, Cuban Revolution, Expat life, lonely planet guidebooks, Relationships, Travel to Cuba, Uncategorized

13 responses to “Conner’s Letra del Año

  1. Congrats to your friend on her recent marriage!!! What an exciting year of travel you have planned!

  2. It’s great to feel upbeat and enthusiastic about the New Year! Wishing you happiness, health, and lots of fun.

  3. LOVE your blog, Conner! Your last two (consolidating creativity and managing time) are related and truly resonate with me. Do less, but do them 100%.

    I also noticed Hawaii in your list of destinations? Where and when?

    Best from Vancouver,

    • Hola YogaSpy. Thanks so much for the kind words. I completely agree with you: “do less, but do it at 100%”. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

      Hawaii: the Big Island, maybe a bit of Oahu. For pleasure, not work in June. That’s the dream, anyway!

  4. Orlando

    Finally, Somewhere I can read about people who are actually IN my motherland, and not go on these guided tours. I have been there twice in the last 2 years, and I will be going back this coming Thursday. I am an American born Cubano. Parents both raised in Cuba, only to be sent to the exile. Although I don’t think I can ever give up my country, I am in love with Cuba. Everything about it. I just started reading you’re blog, but I don’t think I’m going to stop any time soon. Here’s to a long night. Lol.

    • Hola Orlando!

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. A bit different from folks who parachute in for a week on an organized tour or those who’ve been coming to Cuba for 20 years – and spend all their time in all-inclusive resorts, eh?

      Not that Im knocking them! It’s just that my writing is a bit more profound on the ‘mecanica’ side of things and a lot less enamored with the ‘folklor’ of the place and Cubans in particular.

      Have a great trip (have you downloaded my app yet?! I promise you won’t be disapointed!)


      • Orlando

        No, I haven’t downloaded your app, but I will be the moment I hit reply. I don’t knock the folks who go on those organized tour, if you want to be a square (I can’t believe that’s the best I can come up with, lol). Only way to really experience Havana, at least, is just to get lost inside the beauty of the lost city.

        Another thing I forgot to mention was the fact that you add Cuban dialect into your blog, I simply love it. lol. “Que Bola, Asere?” Keep up the good work, on the blog. I posted a comment on Cuba Libro’s Facebook page that I will be passing by the store on my week long trip this coming Thursday. I hope I can get a hammock.

  5. Josi

    I have absolutely fallen in love with you blog !! I am a cuban young woman living in Canada. I have lived in Canada all of my life but Cuba is where my heart is. I found your blog by chance and I have just spent the past 2hr reading your latest post, I have laughed and cried!

    Awesome job! Ella no esta en na!

    • Thanks Josi. No es fcil pero tampoco imposible! Have you been to Cuba? Must check it out/get back! Saludos

      • Josi

        Hey Conner ! I go back to visit my family every year. I am from bejucal. As I get older the harder it gets to leave! I am seriously considering dropping everything for a couple months and just staying there. Living in the land of the Big Macs just isn’t all it’s cracked out to be 😉 Home is where the heart is lol my family thinks I’m crazy for wanting to stay … They say I won’t last. Hopefully I can prove them wrong lol

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