Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Human Interest

Homosassa woman feels the sway of her native Cuba

Ingrid Ricci's view of Cuba is a complex one, formed during three different periods over more than half a century.

The 72-year-old from Homosassa grew up in Havana with her mother. Some summers, she would visit her dad in Santiago de Cuba, riding on horseback to see one of her grandfather's farms in the mountain region outside the city. Her grandfather owned a coffee and sugar cane plantation there.

Ricci left Cuba as a young girl in 1955, during the time of Batista. She wouldn't go back for almost 50 years, until she had retired and after much coaxing from her daughter. Her family in Cuba made arrangements without phones or cars, and they dressed up for the big moment in 2003. Ricci realized how isolated they had been and how special her visit was to them. "I think they probably feel like the world has forgotten them," she said.

Last month, she flew back to Santiago de Cuba. She walked the cobblestones, listened to the vendors and the rhythm of drums in the streets, looked at the torch ginger flowers, and tasted a Cuban cake that reminded her of her childhood.

There was Internet access in public parks, and she watched a large family gather to Skype with relatives in the United States. A woman cried, happy to see loved ones over the phone. "We take that for granted," Ricci said of Americans, "we sit around with our family at the dinner table or at a birthday party and everybody comes, and then you try to ignore half of them."

Ricci said she cherishes the warmth and resilience of the Cuban people. She hopes the U.S. embargo is completely lifted, so it will be cheaper and easier to come and go to the island — but she prefers that the culture and the art endure.

Photo by Amber Sigman

Ingrid Ricci, center right, lights candles inside the El Cobre Basilica located in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains, and is said to be a most important shrine for Cuba. Years ago, Ricci's grandmother went on her knees up a flight of 254 flights of stairs as a way to thank for a prayer that was answered . 'But she never told anyone what the prayer was,' Ricci said about her grandmother.

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

Pope Francis (El Papa in Spanish) waves as he passes by a crowd outside the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral where he spoke in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. He spoke broadly of the importance of reconnecting and reconciliation, before traveling to the the United States.

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

Ingrid Ricci reacts as Pope Francis passes by a crowd of people (mostly local church members) in Santiago de Cuba. 'I got very emotional because it's very moving to see the great outpouring of joy with the people, and having my daughter be there with me when we went to see the Pope; it was amazing.'

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

A photo of Ingrid Ricci in Cuba sitting next to her birthday cake at the age of five in 1947.

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

A little girl sings, center, as Ingrid Ricci, far left, listens in while visiting the local homes of her cousin's god children in Santiago de Cuba.

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

Ingrid Ricci and her family visit a beach together in Santiago de Cuba. 'I feel like I'm a part of this land, and the people,' Ricci said. 'I'm at home.'

 

Photo by Amber Sigman

Ingrid Ricci, age 72, walks past old colorful buildings to the port in Santiago de Cuba, the city where her paternal side of her family is from. Ricci left Cuba during the time of Batista in 1955. 'Their choices are limited, but the spirit of the Cuban people is amazing,' she said.

 

Photographer Amber Sigman in Cuba in a boat, left, and an old American car, right.

Photo by Amber Sigman

 


 

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