Amazing Lessons from “Illiterate” Farm Workers

We moved to a farm that was owned by my grandmother when I was about five or six years old. Part of my education was observing in nature and asking questions and getting answers from people, some of whom were completely illiterate.

For example, one man taught me how to use my sense of smell to know when the rain was coming. When there was a storm he used to say: “that hurricane is going to come through here,” despite the fact that the meteorological institute would contradict his prediction. And he was always right! He could smell the ozone or the combination of gases in the air. He can see how the wind was blowing in the clouds were moving two or three days before the hurricane went by.

So we were able to put up supports around our houses and two other things to protect ourselves from the storm.

In 1948 we had a terrible hurricane that destroyed three houses. My parents and my two grandmothers had house is close to one another. Two houses and a garage fell down. Only the house of my parents and our house remained standing. Later on, the others were rebuilt.

I was a young girl during the war years. My father knew a lot of history and would always comment on the horrors of Hitler and what was happening in Europe. My father had many Jewish friends who were either refugees themselves or were wondering what happened to their relatives in Europe.

We were of course convinced that the United States was on the right side. We loved Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He had tried to help Latin America with his good neighbor policy. One of my religions is that of a democrat and I trace it to these times.

Our farm was in the middle of the valley called the Yumuri Valley. We lived in the hills on one side of the valley. Rivers had opened up this valley and it was very big. There were royal palm’s there, standing straight and tall. The vegetation was exuberant.

From our farm it was 9km to get to Matanzas, where the schools were located. I made many friends home I would visit.

On Sundays I would love to go to the movies. I usually watched American movies with subtitles but some of the sounds of the language got into my head.

I loved American romantic musical comedies. Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Rita Hayworth. Over the years these people became very familiar to me.

Later on when I went to the University of Havana you could spend 25¢ and see three or four movies… a whole afternoon’s worth!

At the time Havana had perhaps 1 million inhabitants while Matanzas and perhaps 60,000.

When I went to Havana, I didn’t take the farm with me except for the knowledge that I had acquired there. I wasn’t very pretentious. Perhaps I am more pretentious now! If my bones were half as good as my brains I would be perfect!