She was born into a militant labor family in 1906 when her uncle was the radical mayor of West Tampa, Florida. The cigar factories of West Tampa and Ybor City would shut down almost three years later so thousands of working people could attend his funeral. She grew up speaking Spanish although her family had been in Florida since at least 1880. When she died in 1995, she spoke her last words to me in Spanish then translated them into English to make sure I would understand I should go with God. She never liked to be photographed. She would not make eye contact with a camera. She never ate with us when she served us great meals of Cuban food because she was embarrassed that she lacked teeth. She would join us for Neapolitan ice cream for dessert in front of the little black-and-white TV, and we would watch old comedy movies with her until we begged to go to sleep. She had a wonderful mischievous grin and a cackling laugh. She would have loved Mr. Bean. She would put everyone in their place. During the Depression, the middle finger on her right hand became infected from a deep wound when a diaper pin stuck into her while changing her wiggling middle child. The finger remained in a permanent reverse bird position. She would let us beat her in checkers and cards. She would scare us to death as a make-believe witch while simultaneously making us laugh. She wrote dozens of unpublished spiral-bound notebooks full of poems, stories, and journal entries.
In 1970, her first cousin once removed, who wrote many published books, wrote in Down There (a book about Latin America in the late 1960s cited in Pamphlet No. 1: A Winding Path to Workers’ Gardens/Un camino de bobina a jardines de trabajadores, at pages 24, 35-36) that “[b]ooks do not make anything happen, but we do not cease from mental strife.” His stepson insisted, “[W]hat you write is part of the struggle.” In the end he agreed: “So I shall pull myself out of my pessimism and try one last argument.” I am glad he did. So now it is my turn to try. El espíritu de nuestras abuelas nos acompaña.