Tío Carlos oozed personality. When he entered a room his presence could not be ignored. He had a flair for reciting poetry which he loved. From my vantage point he was bigger than life. He and my mother had a very special bond and both were very passionate about their ideals and beliefs. It was this passion that created a rift that would not be closed in his lifetime.
When his sisters spoke about him they would refer to him as Carlitos Corzo. I thought this was rather peculiar. I did find out the reason why. When they were children one day when his cousin, also called Carlitos, was at their house, there was an incident – I don’t know exactly what it was –and when my grandfather came home and heard about it, he asked who did it. They told him it was Carlitos and he got really angry and let Tio Carlos have it. The fact was that the real culprit was his cousin Carlitos Garcia, but by the time this became clear, he already had gotten an earful from my grandfather and perhaps a spanking. At this moment Tio Carlos stated: “From now on I am Carlitos Corzo!”
When Tio Carlos and Tia Maria were engaged they both lived in Colon and had to take a train to the school where they taught. Almost daily Tia Maria would lose her return ticket and Tio Carlos would laugh about her sweet scattered brain and buy her a new ticket. The very first time that this happened once they were married, his reaction was quite different. How could she possibly be so careless?!!!!
Tio Carlos and Tia Maria were my godparents. Tia Maria was a rural school teacher and they lived in Ceiba Mocha, near Matanzas. Their house was attached to the one room schoolhouse where she taught and was located in a small farm called Paso del Medio. They had three sons. Carlitos, Julio and Raul. Raul passed away in 2004. By now it is obvious that I was very lucky to have magical places to visit during my childhood, this was another one. There is nothing like playing school in a real schoolhouse. They also had a cow and a pig which my cousin Julio rode, much to the pig’s chagrin. Papi would very often take Wichy and me there where he would enjoy long conversations with Tio Carlos while we would play with our cousins for hours. There was a river than ran behind the farm and there were some rocks you could step on to get across. The water was crystal clear and you could see all the way to the bottom. It was very frightening for me go across since I did not know how to swim, but there were days when I was brave enough. It was most generous of my cousins and of Wichy to include an uncoordinated girl like me in their games. Not that they were ever willing to play school, but just walking into that empty schoolroom was exciting for me.
Although Tio Carlos taught for many years, by this time he was the general manager of a soda company in Matanzas – La Bella Mantancera. I remember once taking a tour of the place and going into a refrigerated room where it was very cold – not nearly as cold as Milwaukee where I would live for 17 years. We used to get cases of the delicious soda.
A little over a year before I left Cuba they moved to Matanzas and they invited me to spend a week with them. I think they both had wanted a daughter and I have the feeling that had I stayed in Cuba, my relationship with them would have truly blossomed. Among my treasured possessions I have a golden charm of a little dog from Tia Maria. Time has worn its gold coating, but its sentimental value can only increase which is also true of the US$2 bill that Tio Carlos sent me for my 15th birthday.
My prayer is that we will embrace again in Heaven where all that matters is love.