Miami Meditation #2: A Rosary, History (Two Five Zero 019)
“The best Cuban breakfast in Miami” — We’re waiting for a table, I’m drinking my espresso Cubano. A tattoo on a young woman’s arm: a twining rosary starts above the elbow, each bead lovingly rendered, ends at the wrist with a cross and Mary’s name.
I’m briefly staggered.
By the sweep of history — the first Catholics arrive on Cuba (1,2) and shatter eleven centuries of indigenous life and commit the ensuing barbarities; yet this woman loves her Catholic faith so much she has perforated her arm with the most intimate gesture of her life of prayer. What comfort she no doubt derives from living the faith of her parents, from her permanent memories of her first communion.
Stately Plump Buck Mulligan (3), satirizing the mass on the top of their tower, and Stephen Dedalus’ aspirational statement that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Ulysses, first published while WWI still raged, its atrocities ringing in everyone’s ears.
James Baldwin explaining to a rather obtuse Margaret Meade (4) how “history is not past.” How, otherwise, could a policeman beat him when he was only twelve years old — both trapped in another nightmare of history?
After breakfast we pass a street named for Brigada Asalto 2506 (the CIA-sponsored expeditionary force that landed at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961. (5)) Followed by a towering monument to these same “Heroes of Freedom,” topped by an eternal flame. Of course, there exist people who regard the Bay of Pigs as a project marinating within the taxonomy of Lost Causes, rather than a comic opera of failure orchestrated by an inept CIA. Another history with different people living within it — from which some of them, no doubt, are trying to awake.
- From cubao in the Taíno language, “where fertile land is abundant.”
- I published my profile of Cuba as part of the “195 Countries Plus Everyone Else in 365 Days” project (currently on hiatus) back in May of 2020. It’s really very good. Here’s a link: https://www.facebook.com/paul.stark.104/posts/10163614062790254
3. From the first sentence of Ulysses by James Joyce. Set in 1904, when Irish history had already been more than nightmare enough, not to mention the staggering violence of the history of the rest of the world. Ulysses, in many ways setting forth the project of the modernist novel, is considered by many to be a masterpiece. It is widely available from library systems; if you’d like to own a copy, here’s a link: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781537745848
4. A Rap on Race, a transcript of seven and a half hours of an August, 1970 conversation between the poet and the anthropologist. It’s something of a collector’s item, so if you don’t want to pay those kinds of prices and can’t find it at your local library system, consider reading it for free online here: https://archive.org/details/raponrace0000mead/mode/2up
5. Except for the 114 who perished, nearly every one of the 1,297 invaders was captured, tried, and imprisoned. Ransomed more than a year and a half later for $53 million worth of food and medicine, they were welcomed back to Florida by JFK and Jackie O in the Orange Bowl on December 29th, 1962. There’s some rather startling video available, including Jackie speaking Spanish. The Orange Bowl is packed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMr2SI2e-cA