Walking Around Santiago de Cuba On Tuesdays
By Gardenia de la Caridad Hung Fong
Last April, I visited my Cuban-Chinese family in Santiago de Cuba with my youngest brother Roberto Santiago Hung Fong who wanted to see our family relatives living in this historic city founded in 1614, five hundred years ago by Don Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. On the 500th Anniversary of the founding of Santiago de Cuba, I returned to visit my Aunt Xiomara Fong Ramos and her husband Pedro Rafael Zayas Guerrero who still live at my Grandfather Alberto Fong’s Grocery Store and Butcher Shop, at the corner of Calle 3 No.119 entre Calle 2 y Reparto Maria de la Torres, next to my Mother’s oldest brother José “Pepín” en Carretera del Morro y La Trocha.
At the Antonio Maceo International Airport, we were welcomed by my cousin Dr. Santiago Mock and his wife Ileana Castillo Revé, as well as by my Aunt Xiomara Fong Ramos and her husband Pedro Zayas Guerrero who brought a Spaniard friend of the family, “Gallego” as our private driver. We arrived on Friday morning, April 1st, 2016, returning as adults to visit Santiago de Cuba and our Cuban-Chinese family, after 45 years living Chicago, Illinois as U.S. residents.
At the airport in Santiago de Cuba, my cousin and his wife told us that they had to go on their own car and would see us later at their home in Carretera del Morro and La Trocha.
Before they left, I asked Ileana Castillo Revé for their telephone number in case I had to get help from her and my cousin Santiago Mock Hung during my family reunion in Santiago de Cuba with Aunt Xiomara and Uncle Pedro Zayas Guerrero. They only talked about my youngest brother Roberto Santiago Hung Fong staying with them in the back bedroom with a single bed. I knew that their Cuban home is rather small and narrow in Santiago de Cuba since it has been restored and remodeled from my Grandfather Alberto’s grocery and hardware store where customer could get their food, groceries, as well any type of household tools, fishing tackle, fishing hooks, construction tools, like in a General Store.
During the drive back from the airport, the four of us, Aunt Xiomara, me and Robert were sitting in the back and Pedro Zayas Guerrero sat in front with the driver, we were all sitting close and tight in the Cuban car, while our Spaniard driver took us sightseeing on Carretera del Morro in his old vintage car, bouncing on the road, up and down the hills.
I began to be concerned because there was no room or bed for me at my Aunt Xiomara’s Cuban home in Santiago de Cuba. “Where was I going to stay or sleep in Santiago de Cuba?”
Pedro Zayas Guerrero suggested to use a portable open bed cot, known as a “catre” which they use for their grandson Rafael Alejandro Zayas Rojas when he visits them. I did not like the idea of sleeping in the living room or next to their bed in the same room.
Upon arrival, I called my cousin Santiago Mock and his wife Ileana Castillo Revé on their mobile cellular telephone for help in providing lodging accommodation at their home in Reparto Sueño near the Ciudad Escolar by the Cuartel Moncada. My cousin Santiago and his wife Ileana were willing to accommodate me in Chaguín’s bedroom, their first son who is already married and has a Cuban home with his wife Ileana. Cousin Chaguín inherited my Aunt Luz “Leing” home in Rastro.
I was glad that Dr. Santiago Mock and his wife Ileana offered their hospitality like my oldest Aunt Luz “Leing” Hung always has done for our family—she is kind and generous like my Grandmother Salustiana Gertrudis Mustelier Baró used to be with family relatives. They offered to pick me up in their car at Xiomara and Pedro’s house in Calle 3 and Avenida Eduardo Chibas, Carretera del Morro y La Trocha which is quite a distance and a long way from Reparto Sueño where they still live in Santiago de Cuba.
On Tuesdays, my cousin Santiago “Chago” goes to visit the family farm near El Cobre which used to belong to his father Guillermo Mock who was a Master Freemason at the Lodge Prudencia in Santiago de Cuba.
My cousin Santiago Mock asked Pedro Zayas Guerrero to pick me up on Tuesday in person and take me back to his Cuban home on Calle 3 y Carretera del Morro in the morning because he was going to be busy all day during his trip near El Cobre while he visited the family farm there.
During my April 2016 stay in Santiago de Cuba, the first Tuesday my cousin Santiago Mock left early for the family farm near El Cobre, Pedro Zayas Guerrero offered to pick me up in person and he arrived on a motorcycle share ride which costs $20 CUC or Cuban pesos. So, Pedro thought I would get on a shared motorcycle ride from Reparto Sueño near Ciudad Escolar Cuartel Moncada, all the way to Carretera del Morro y Calle 3, with my two (2) shoulder hand bags strapped on my back. I did not want to share a ride on a motorcycle by myself in Santiago de Cuba and Pedro share another motorcycle ride for $40 CUC Cuban pesos, instead of taking a Cuban Yellow Taxi for the same amount with less concern over travel safety along the way. I wanted to share a taxi ride, instead of a motorcycle on Tuesday.
Pedro Zayas Guerrero pretended not to understand my concern over the shared motorcycle ride and my two (2) handbags strapped on my shoulder. So, I walked over to Avenida Garzón and hailed and waived a Cuban Yellow taxi myself. The Cuban cab driver took me with Pedro to my Aunt Xiomara’s home on Calle 3 and Carretera del Morro in Santiago de Cuba. I told Pedro that I have travelled around the world by myself and always call for a Taxi Cab Driver to take where I am going to go. There are always taxis available for travelers and visitors in town or out-of-town.
Afterwards, I told Pedro Zayas Guerrero not to pick me up again at the home of Santiago Mock and Ileana Castillo Revé. I wanted to prevent any other misunderstandings or problems between him and me during my stay in Santiago de Cuba. I told him that I was not a child any more and knew how to travel and call a taxi in town.
The second Tuesday, Aunt Xiomara had to pick me up at cousin Santiago and Ileana’s home in Calle E #53 near Ciudad Escolar Cuartel Moncada in Reparto Sueño. Since cousin Lilita Sánchez Fujishiro had called cousin Chago and Ileana to invite me to visit her at the Plaza de Marte where her daughter lives, we walked on the way back on Avenida Garzón to the Plaza de Marte to find her home across the street. So, Aunt Xiomara began walking back from Reparto Sueño all the way to Carretera del Morro y La Trocha to Calle 3 No. 119—around noon in the tropical scorching heat of Santiago de Cuba, my feet began to blister, swell, and hurt all the way back to the house. I even got sunburnt from the exposure to the sweltering Cuban sun. Aunt Xiomara made me walk all the way from Reparto Sueño all the way to her home in Carretera del Morro y La Trocha. There was too much walking long distances in the sultry Cuban heat at noon time.
When I returned, I was already perspiring, dehydrated, overheated, annoyed and irritated by the time I got back to Aunt Xiomara’s home for lunch time. So, my youngest brother Roberto Santiago Hung Fong began to scream that I had to see the doctor at the Clinic for my traveler’s medical check up for blood pressure and temperature. Roberto began to grab, touch and feel my skin and two arms, telling me that I had to go to the doctor immediately. I was already angry enough to tell him off, “Don’t touch me!” I just got here after walking all the way from Reparto Sueño with Aunt Xiomara who did not take a taxi cab back home.
Then, I told Roberto Hung Fong:
Why do I have to go to the doctor right now?
I can go when I can and I just got here from walking a long distance. I am already suffocating, hyperventilating, and dehydrated from the excessive heat in Santiago de Cuba. I go to the doctor when I can get there, not right now.
Robert, Can’t you see that we just got to the house. From now on, I am going with Aunt Xiomara to the Clinic when we get there.
These two incidents did take place on Tuesdays after walking long distance from Reparto Sueño by the Ciudad Escolar Cuartel Moncada all the day to Carretera del Morro and La Trocha in Santiago de Cuba. Afterwards, I was able to go with Aunt Xiomara, with her neighbor Delia Margarita Lozada Guerra or on my own in Santiago de Cuba.
Excessive walking in the noon-time scorching heat can cause the skin to sunburn, the feet to blister, swell, and damage toes and skin tissue. In addition, beware of fatigue, dehydration, sunstroke, hyperventilation, and perspiration in the heat of the Cuban tropical sun. Even when walking can be the best way to sightsee in Santiago de Cuba, please take a taxi to your destination and save yourself the consequences of over walking long distance in the Cuban tropical sun.
Carretera del Morro and Avenida Eduardo Chibas in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Gardenia C. Hung, M.A., B.A.
Consulting Social Media Arts Communications