Irene Hernandez Borragero (Chunita)
Born:  October 20, 1913
Died:  1987
Married to Joaquin Barnet

Chunita was the youngest of the siblings.  I don’t have any information on how she came to be called Chunita.  The name seemed so natural to me growing up that I never asked.  She was a pharmacist and worked in Matanzas and for a time before she got married she lived with us.  I was very little so I don’t remember.  However, there is a story about me refusing to have anyone else clean me up on her wedding day when she was all dressed and ready to leave the house and, as the story goes, she complied.

My father walking Chunita down the aisle.  To the left you can see Ricardito and Pancho up to no good – to the right (partial) is Tío Pepito – the face you see behind between the two of them is Florita Santaballa

Lucky for me she still lived in Matanzas after she got married and continued to spoil me to my heart’s content.  Wichy and I spent a lot of time at her house.  They lived with her husband’s aunt, Ana Maria, who had helped raise him after his mother died.  The relationship between Chunita and Ana Maria was a little bit strained.  Although Ana Maria was very nice to us, she was strict and I will never forget that she made me eat okra for the first and last time in my life.

This picture was taken at Chunita’s house in the days when it was safe
to let a passing by photographer in your house.

Chunita took very good care of her appearance.  She was nearsighted but refused to wear glasses.  Once someone told my mother that Chunita was very stuck up because she saw her from a distance and waved, she was sure Chunita was looking straight at her and completely ignored her.  Being nearsighted myself I know she did not see any of this happening.  Thank God for contact lenses!

Joaquinito was quiet and when he did talk, it was hard to understand what he was saying – I always wondered how he could be a lawyer.  I never got close to him, but he would go along with all of Chunita’s schemes, even to the point of running for senator on the last election before Castro took over.  He was a most inactive candidate.  They would often take us swimming and she would pack a picnic for us and we would have such a great time.

Joaquinito and Chunita

The last New Year’s Eve we were in Cuba, she suddenly got this brilliant idea of taking Lolita and our cousins Elita and Marina (Hernandez) to Varadero to ring in the New Year.  Of course she did not let Joaquinito in on the plan.  Instead she wanted Lolita to tell him:  “Joaqui, you look so handsome, take us to Varadero.”  We just didn’t have that kind of relationship with Joaquinito.  Besides it was not a good idea to go to Varadero without a reservation on New Year’s Eve.  She did organize an impromptu party at her house.  My father did not find her crazy schemes amusing so he was a bit upset.  Perhaps not the best planned party, but we had a wonderful time and a lifetime memory of our last New Year in Cuba.  It was perfect for me, I was too young for the Varadero plan.

She sent me many postcards from different places she visited in Cuba so I would learn about them.  She kept herself busy learning until she suffered a stroke.  She died two years after.

Her dream of being a mother never came true.  She had several miscarriages.  I can only hope that we, her nieces and nephews,  provided her with a taste of motherhood.  Any child would have been proud of having her as a mother.


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