In 2003, I broke the law because I did not believe in one that kept people from knowing each other. I went to live in Cuba for three months, packing my bags with my dream to write, with my years of studying Spanish, with the years I danced Cuban salsa in New York, and with a great interest in seeing what lay beyond my own preconceived notions of the island. I packed pounds and pounds of clothing, antibiotics, vitamins, and art supplies; and, in a special place where it wouldn’t get lost, I tucked the photograph and address of Ramon Vermudo, the man I was to contact once I arrived in Santiago.
I was lucky; I was not a regular tourist. Many of my friends in New York were Cuban, and my good fortune was to use their friends and relations in Cuba as my GPS, Ramon being one of them. If I did not stray from their signals and wisdom, I was awarded with a rich and poignant ride. When I did take matters into my own hands, I realized that two Cubas existed: one for tourists and one for family. Gladly, I gave up some freedoms, for staying within the lines they had carefully drawn for me was well worth the price. Ramon became my guide and then my lover. Ours seemed a mutual exchange, each of us hungry to share philosophy, food, literature, music, and love. But our relationship was not immune to the societal systems from which we came.
My memoir, UNDOCUMENTED, is my attempt to reconcile love transmuted by politics and circumstance. I also explore my relationship with the yoga communities in Cuba and our continued efforts to build a bridge between our nations through yoga and meditation. On the cusp of thawing relations between our two countries, UNDOCUMENTED reflects the on-going love affair that exists between the people of the United States and Cuba despite government interference.
On Sunday, February 22 at 5 pm, I will be sharing an excerpt from UNDOCUMENTED as part of the reading series Spoke The Hub Salon in Brooklyn: A Monthly Evening of Writers’ Readings, Plays, Poetry, Music, Film and Informal Performance. Please join me, along with Melissa Cooper & Donnaldson Brown, and a cash bar at the Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center at 748 Union Street in Brooklyn.
SARAH SHELLOW writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. Her short stories and reviews have appeared in The Pitkin Review and The Atticus Review. Presently, she serves as a fiction editor for Clockhouse. She teaches literacy to children and adults, and mentors new public school teachers in the art and craft of teaching writing. Her cross-genre work can be found at www.sarahshellow.blogspot.com.