Más se perdío by M.C.A. Hogarth
“They don’t know,” I tell my mother.
We are sitting at a table in a bookstore cafe. Between us, my daughter looks at a book on ocean mammals. There is espresso growing tepid on the table.
“No,” she agrees.
“They don’t have our family history,” I say.
“No,” she says.
“And it’s because of our family history,” I say.
Her laugh is without mirth. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” I say. “No, don’t be. I’m glad. I’d rather know. I’d rather know to fear the state. I’d rather know how easy it is. Once you start saying that someone has too much, and other people deserve it instead. Once you give someone the power to decide that. They came for the rich, and I said nothing. But eventually, they come for all of us.”
“Yes,” she says.
Between us there is a house in Cuba that once belonged to my family and the tanks that separated them from it. Between us is the exile that drove my grandparents to Mexico, penniless, and the abject poverty that taught my mother what it was to weep outside a bakery because my grandfather couldn’t afford a loaf of bread.
Between us is history, and precedent. I can taste it in my mouth like ashes.
“You are calm today,” I say.
“Más se perdío en Cuba,” she says, philosophically.
I stare at her.
“You didn’t understand?” she asks.
“No,” I say. “I did. ‘More was lost in Cuba.’ ”
“Yes,” she says. And adds, “That is not a Cuban saying. A Spanish one, from the 1800s, when they lost Cuba as a colony. It is to say… ‘well, worse has happened.’ ”
I say, “This is not a colony we’re talking about losing.”
We finish our coffee and she asks me what I will do.
“What I always do,” I say. “Make art. And remember.”