Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: The Bay of Pigs, Black Beans, and Charcoal Made from Scratch

on February 2, 2015

We traveled from Havana to Cienfuegos, where we would spend two nights, on a road that took us by the Bay of Pigs. The coastline that sunny morning gave no hint of the 1960 invasion of Cuban exiles, supported by U. S. Naval forces, who were pushed back and defeated by Castro. We stopped by the Bay of Pigs Museum. There were pictures, old uniforms and guns on display. People besides our group silently looked around. It is a sad place and honors a moment of history we must remember.

This morning blue waters of the bay lapped at beaches which were unnaturally vacant. A few families picnicked. Children splashed in the water. Mostly sea birds had the run of the place. Often our bus was the only vehicle on the road except for farmers going about their business in horse-drawn wagons. Not even the trucks carrying hitch-hikers to work passed by. And remember, private cars are rare. It was a drowsy sort of morning and many on our tour were lulled to sleep. Until – what’s that up ahead? The oncoming lane was covered with what looked like sheaves of wheat to me. But I didn’t think wheat grew in Cuba. There were men standing by a truck that I imagined was hauling their produce to market. The farmers were trying to gather up their crop I thought. Jose set me straight.The sheave-like stalks were black beans, a staple of the Cuban diet. The tall stalks had been piled on the road where the truck could be driven back and forth over them, dislodging the black beans. I realized that this was another instance of Cuban ingenuity, in this case making use of a road less traveled to shell beans.

A little further on Jose had the driver stop the bus. Jose got off and walked toward a strange mound of dirt that seemed to be on fire. A gnome-like man who looked as if he lived deep in the earth appeared. He was short and stooped with a pecan colored face wrinkled like a very dry prune. He greeted Jose as an old buddy with a hug and a back slap. Jose knew everybody on his regular route as travel guide. The old man followed Jose back to the bus and climbed up to be introduced to us. His withered face sparked and came to life as Jose translated the man’s account of the process of making charcoal. The smoke I saw was an essential ingredient. Wood is placed in an earthen oven and set on fire. Days pass as layers of dirt are added to “cook” the wood until the tall mound of dirt and smoldering fire reduce the wood to little pieces of “charred coal”. The old man had been tending his charcoal-making though eras of change in Cuba. The need for charcoal to make fires for cooking food remained the same.

17 responses to “Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: The Bay of Pigs, Black Beans, and Charcoal Made from Scratch

  1. Silver Threading says:

    I am always humbled by the way the people are forced to live. The bravery of the people that had to succumb to such an existence is heart warming. Bravo. ❤

  2. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks. Colleen. I get choked up thinking about these people. And I am charmed by their out-of-the -box way of living. ❤

  3. Thanks for sharing this! Your attention to detail paints the story like a picture, and I feel like I was there.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post. it was very enlightening — innovative shelling of beans and a process for making charcoal. Daily, I learned new and interesting things as a blogger.

  5. This is wonderful. Thank you. I especially like the charcoal maker and the layers of beans on the road.

  6. vivachange77 says:

    Yes, especially the beans. Thanks.

  7. Just love reading these stories and getting to know more about the Cuban way of life, the people you have met are all wonderful examples of how people so wonderfully use the resources available to them in order to survive and survive so charmingly; all the characters you have wrote about have etched themselves in mind , really enjoying this collection. Kathy.

  8. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks so much, Kathy. ❤

  9. Meredith says:


    Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Once Upon a Time

    In “cuba 2012”
    This shows on top of the reblog box when I click and I can’t type or choose any option but cancel.

  10. Meredith says:

    I’m touched by your writing on Cuba. I have a friend who remembers her father being arrested and taken from his home. They were able to find assistance, get him released and flee from the country. So many couldn’t.

  11. vivachange77 says:

    That is a tragic part of many Cuban lives. I’m glad his family could get him freed.

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