Thursday, March 02, 2006

El Tio Pepe

A few days back I posted about my grandmother, Tati. I mentioned that she was divorced. I never met my grandfather (my mother's father), thanks to fidel and his damned revolution, because he was never able to visit the states and died in Cuba. I've written a little bit about my grandfather on my father's side, mainly about his encounter with Che Guevara, on my site

Abuelito Enrique died in 1978. That was also the year that my other grandfather's brother, Jose "Pepe" Ramallo and his wife Maria left Cuba and moved to Puerto Rico. He quickly began a tradition of coming to Miami for weeks-long vacations annually. Though he wasn't her father, I'm sure that my mother was happy to have him in her life again. For me he definitely filled the void that was left when the only grandfather I knew passed away.

Recently I was going through a box of old photos and found a letter that my tio Pepe sent me in 1987, when I was a freshman in college. In tribute to him and what he means to me, I have translated the letter below.

November 18, 1987
Mr. Henry Louis Gomez Ramallo

Gainesville, Florida
U. S. A. -

Dearest nephew-grandson:

Before you return home for Christmas vacation, your aunt Maria and I wanted to drop you a few lines to greet you, wish you health, wish you beautiful new friendships and (very important) good luck with your studies, which you both
deserve and want for your own satisfaction and that of your parents, grandmothers and other family members, among which we count ourselves...

Henry, contemplating some photos from a few years ago (the number of which is relative, for you they are many and for us it was yesterday), there's one in which we are with you on our first trip to Miami - after leaving Cuba for the last time - and that was in 1978. You were about to turn 9 years old. The importance of this fact is that on that occasion you received us and attended to us as if we had been together all along: with much love, you even gave us a mini-show imitating Travolta in his movie Saturday Night Fever, that made us think that you'd be an actor and a dancer. And later, each year, the same or more. Your greeting when we arrive each time, is so sincere, so natural that it's as if we had only said goodbye the night before...

And because of that, my loved "brother"
[we used to call each other brother, in English], I'm writing this little letter, to give you thanks because you found a place for us in your heart -as you are in ours- and that way we compensate for the years that we were separated because that's what destiny had in store for us. Look how happy I am in expressing these positive sentiments, that when your friends come over to the house, they greet me and treat me naturally, as if I were one of them. And the difference in age, brother, is seventy-something years.

Additionally, I had an enormous desire to spell out our family relationship: "nephew-grandson," that fills me with pride and emotion. Although I want it to be clear that among us it will always be "my brother", as we started. I enjoyed writing you. And you reading it?

Your aunt Maria sends a kiss. Me, a strong hug.

Tia Maria and Tio Pepe
Gracias brother. Gracias por enseñarme como ser un buen brother. Te extraño mucho.

Here's a picture of my tio Pepe, my tia Maria, yours truly (you can tell this was sometime in the 80's from my pooka shell necklace and surfer t-shirt, dude) and my abuelita Tati. If you look at the bottom of the picture you can see our dog, Toti laying at our feet.

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