2016-05-12 Cuba: A Personal Journey

Although many Vermonters are flocking to Cuba, few have lifelong connections with the island nation. Bristol resident and musician Rick Ceballos will share his story and images of the trip that reconnected him with his Cuban heritage in Cuba: A Personal Journey at the Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00pm.  The presentation is hosted by the One World Library Project.

Ceballos’s father, Alfonso Ceballos, grew up in Moron, a rural area in eastern Cuba. He left for America in 1929 as an adventurous teenager and made his way to Manhattan, where he managed to find work and thrive despite the impact of the Depression. While there, he met and married Rick’s mother and moved with her to western Pennsylvania, where they eventually opened a restaurant and raised a family.

Ceballos traveled to Cuba with his family twice as a young child, but after Castro came to power, they never returned. Over the years his family lost touch with most of their Cuban relatives. His father, a colorful character who sang Cuban songs but spoke little about his life in Cuba, was his son’s only connection to his heritage.

After his father’s death in 1999, Ceballos became increasingly interested in Cuban culture. This past January, he finally returned to his father’s homeland with his wife, Alice Leeds. They spent two weeks traveling throughout the western half of the island. While there, Ceballos reunited with a cousin living in Havana. They had not seen each other for over sixty years.

During the presentation, Ceballos will share stories and images of his trip and will discuss the impact of reconnecting with his Cuban heritage. Ceballos and his wife visited cultural and historic sites and enjoyed the natural beauty of the mountains, beaches, woodlands and farms of Cuba.

As a musician, Ceballos became enchanted with the lively melodies and instruments he heard throughout the country. Upon his return to Vermont, he acquired and began playing the tres cubano, a guitar-like instrument with three pairs of strings. Ceballos will share a melody he wrote for the tres about his trip.

One World Library has added several titles to its collection in honor of this presentation. These include the memoir, Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home by Eduardo Machado; Cuba and its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo by Ned Sublette; and Christina Garcia’s novel, Dreaming in Cuban, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.