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Maria L. Retana

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Remembering Our Cultural Heritage
By Maria L. Retana   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, November 29, 2009
Posted: Sunday, November 29, 2009

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This article has been read world wide via my website. I have received many emails from visitors that, because their background they, can relate to its content. I hope it can bring possitive memories to the readers of authorsden!

To remember is to go back to your roots, your childhood, and to find your inner self. How can this be accomplished? Most of the time, it happens spontaneously in the brain. However, with a little help of the five senses, we can also make it happen. According to experts, a person cannot recall a memory of his first 2 years of life. Most people’s memory could take them back as early as when they were 40 months old. It is also harder to remember unpleasant events in our lives than pleasant ones.

Most of the time, we block or try to avoid anything or anyone that might bring those unpleasant memories back. Imagine a tragic event in a person’s life for example: a war, or witnessing a murder. These memories cannot easily be shared and, despite being part of the person’s life, often cannot be expressed or recalled. However, they can sometimes be remembered if an outside intervention happens, by becoming an eye witness in a murder trial, for example, or through psychological treatment.

Pleasant events in our lives are much easier to remember, and therefore to share with others. They can be remembered more naturally than the unpleasant ones. The five senses play an important part in remembering. The smell of sweet bread in the grocery store, an old tune you might hear on the radio, touching a fabric or a texture, seeing children playing, or eating a familiar food can all help. If you close your eyes you can bring up a memory recorded in your brain, showing that it was really just temporarily dormant. I would like to explain how I have been remembering my cultural heritage, how I am sharing it with my readers, and how it will be passed on from my children to my grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In 1970 at the age of 14, I left Cuba with my parents and sister. We grieved as a result of this important but heart-breaking event. The first week we arrived in the US, my sister Iris and I cried ourselves to sleep. In time, we came to accept the reality of our situation and we all moved on with our lives. It was not easy for my parents. They put up a mental block, and all they did for years was talk about their homeland and how much they missed it. Iris and I adapted to the new change a little easier. We went to school, made new friends, and immersed ourselves in a new culture. As typical teenagers we kept busy by trying to fit into our new environment. TV and the music of the 1970s were our best companions in this personal change.

Iris and I graduated from La Sierra High School in Riverside, CA. I went to the University of California in Riverside, and she went to RCC (a community college with a Nursing Program.) We both got married while attending school, and raised families while achieving the ‘American Dream’. However, I knew that there was a part of me that was missing, but I was not sure what it was. I knew I was content with my family and my accomplishments, but still I did not feel complete. In 1994, my husband was hired as a Spanish professor at Cochise College, Douglas, AZ. and with our three children we moved to Bisbee, AZ.

A few weeks after moving to Bisbee, as I was walking downtown, a familiar smell transported me to my childhood, and to my own cultural heritage. As I was getting closer to the familiar smell, I read "Queen B Bakery", and as I entered the bakery my sense of smell became acute. A sensation of joy washed over me, but I could not tell why. Five years after the bakery incident, and after writing and publishing three bilingual children’s books about wildlife of the Southwest, I became aware that I had found the piece of the puzzle, thanks to the smell of that sweet bread in the Queen B Bakery.

It happened in the summer of 1999, while at home recuperating from foot surgery. I suddenly smelled that bread again. I knew that memories from my childhood had been awakened by the smell of that sweet bread I experienced in the bakery. I also knew that it was time to write my first multicultural story, and that it was an opportunity to share my cultural heritage. This is how

The smell of a sweet bread in another bakery, the name of which I can’t remember, but which was located right across from my Aunt Fara’s house in my hometown of Sancti Spiritus, came to me. I was beginning to recollect my childhood memories which I would later use for sharing my rich Cuban culture with my readers. I then understood one of the reasons why we moved from California to AZ. All of a sudden all was clear to me. I was able to remember with the aide of my sense of smell. Like a tornado, memories about my Grandma came to me. Within a few minutes I was writing those memories in a format that I knew could be a children’s book. How did I in just few minutes, recollect those memories? I just kept on smelling that sweet bread, but I knew that it was not the one from the Queen B Bakery anymore, but the one I bought with some coins my grandma gave me back in 1962.

While holding the pen to write my memories, a sensation invaded the bedroom. Within 10 minutes the story was written. While writing the story, memories of my relationship with my grandma came to me, memories which also led to the publication of two other books:

In the process of recollecting those pleasant events, I also remembered that as a child I was not permitted to see or visit homes of Santeros. These are members of the most prominent religion in Cuba "Santería", a blend of Catholicism and African religions. In the story

As a writer, I know that the best way I can honor my cultural heritage today is by sharing my multicultural books. I have selected excerpts of

An excerpt from

The day’s last bell rang. Miss Anitica nodded her head and dismissed the class.

I got home just in time. She was bending over the granite washtub.

Grandma stood up, reached for her towel and slowly started to dry her hair….Then she saw me, and bending over, she kissed my forehead.

I asked her, "Grandma give me your blessing."

May God bless you," she said.

The bedroom opened onto the passageway where many herbs were growing…

…then she turned to me and said, "Under these little hair bows….are family pictures and holy cards of Santa Bárbara, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and San Lázaro.

I also remember seeing a Bible in grandma’s trunk….

I said, "I love you grandma. You will be in my heart always."

Praise for

"In

"This title is a powerful and sweet book for those who have suffered the loss of a grandparent."
E. Smith

 

"Grief without despair ... this book is beautiful and sensitive. It shows sadness without despair, and hope and joy in the depth of love."
Samantha Brown

"These illustrations bring their own special complement of warmth, color, affection and care to the narrative. Artist Pat Pollock Rhoads is as simpática and insightful as artist, mother and grandmother can be."
Alvin Sandler

Mrs. Retana is very thankful to Sami Grover, editor of The Bilingual Family Newsletter, for inviting her to write this article published in the Fall of 2007 in Clevedon, England. For more information on multicultural issues please visit:

Grandma's Trunk / El Baúl de Mamaíta author María Luisa Retana offers an encouraging, comforting, and multicultural experience for children dealing with grief and renewal."
Raymond Gonzales, Librarian
"Grandma's Trunk / El Baúl de Mamaíta give the reader a tender scene about the special relationship between a child, a beloved grandmother and a treasured keepsake. After many years, the child's wish concerning the ritual is fulfilled."
Joan Reichel
www.multilingual-matters.com
Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta
"Grandma’s Trunk/El Baúl de Mamaíta" was created. The Afternoon Snack/La Merienda, which depicted memories of my time spent with my childhood friends, and Tanilí, an Afro-Cuban folktale my grandmother use to tell my sister and I. I dedicated this book to her. Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta, my grandma’s beliefs based on Santeria are subtly portrayed. Though I didn’t personally experience this, it is pleasant because it was experienced by my grandma who had fond memories of it. Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta to share with you. I hope it can help bring pleasant and significant memories from your childhood.Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta

Most of the time, we block or try to avoid anything or anyone that might bring those unpleasant memories back. Imagine a tragic event in a person’s life for example: a war, or witnessing a murder. These memories cannot easily be shared and, despite being part of the person’s life, often cannot be expressed or recalled. However, they can sometimes be remembered if an outside intervention happens, by becoming an eye witness in a murder trial, for example, or through psychological treatment.

Pleasant events in our lives are much easier to remember, and therefore to share with others. They can be remembered more naturally than the unpleasant ones. The five senses play an important part in remembering. The smell of sweet bread in the grocery store, an old tune you might hear on the radio, touching a fabric or a texture, seeing children playing, or eating a familiar food can all help. If you close your eyes you can bring up a memory recorded in your brain, showing that it was really just temporarily dormant. I would like to explain how I have been remembering my cultural heritage, how I am sharing it with my readers, and how it will be passed on from my children to my grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In 1970 at the age of 14, I left Cuba with my parents and sister. We grieved as a result of this important but heart-breaking event. The first week we arrived in the US, my sister Iris and I cried ourselves to sleep. In time, we came to accept the reality of our situation and we all moved on with our lives. It was not easy for my parents. They put up a mental block, and all they did for years was talk about their homeland and how much they missed it. Iris and I adapted to the new change a little easier. We went to school, made new friends, and immersed ourselves in a new culture. As typical teenagers we kept busy by trying to fit into our new environment. TV and the music of the 1970s were our best companions in this personal change.

Iris and I graduated from La Sierra High School in Riverside, CA. I went to the University of California in Riverside, and she went to RCC (a community college with a Nursing Program.) We both got married while attending school, and raised families while achieving the ‘American Dream’. However, I knew that there was a part of me that was missing, but I was not sure what it was. I knew I was content with my family and my accomplishments, but still I did not feel complete. In 1994, my husband was hired as a Spanish professor at Cochise College, Douglas, AZ. and with our three children we moved to Bisbee, AZ.

A few weeks after moving to Bisbee, as I was walking downtown, a familiar smell transported me to my childhood, and to my own cultural heritage. As I was getting closer to the familiar smell, I read "Queen B Bakery", and as I entered the bakery my sense of smell became acute. A sensation of joy washed over me, but I could not tell why. Five years after the bakery incident, and after writing and publishing three bilingual children’s books about wildlife of the Southwest, I became aware that I had found the piece of the puzzle, thanks to the smell of that sweet bread in the Queen B Bakery.

It happened in the summer of 1999, while at home recuperating from foot surgery. I suddenly smelled that bread again. I knew that memories from my childhood had been awakened by the smell of that sweet bread I experienced in the bakery. I also knew that it was time to write my first multicultural story, and that it was an opportunity to share my cultural heritage. This is how

"Grandma’s Trunk/El Baúl de Mamaíta" was created. The Afternoon Snack/La Merienda, which depicted memories of my time spent with my childhood friends, and Tanilí, an Afro-Cuban folktale my grandmother use to tell my sister and I. I dedicated this book to her. Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta, my grandma’s beliefs based on Santeria are subtly portrayed. Though I didn’t personally experience this, it is pleasant because it was experienced by my grandma who had fond memories of it. Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta to share with you. I hope it can help bring pleasant and significant memories from your childhood.Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta

The smell of a sweet bread in another bakery, the name of which I can’t remember, but which was located right across from my Aunt Fara’s house in my hometown of Sancti Spiritus, came to me. I was beginning to recollect my childhood memories which I would later use for sharing my rich Cuban culture with my readers. I then understood one of the reasons why we moved from California to AZ. All of a sudden all was clear to me. I was able to remember with the aide of my sense of smell. Like a tornado, memories about my Grandma came to me. Within a few minutes I was writing those memories in a format that I knew could be a children’s book. How did I in just few minutes, recollect those memories? I just kept on smelling that sweet bread, but I knew that it was not the one from the Queen B Bakery anymore, but the one I bought with some coins my grandma gave me back in 1962.

While holding the pen to write my memories, a sensation invaded the bedroom. Within 10 minutes the story was written. While writing the story, memories of my relationship with my grandma came to me, memories which also led to the publication of two other books:

In the process of recollecting those pleasant events, I also remembered that as a child I was not permitted to see or visit homes of Santeros. These are members of the most prominent religion in Cuba "Santería", a blend of Catholicism and African religions. In the story

As a writer, I know that the best way I can honor my cultural heritage today is by sharing my multicultural books. I have selected excerpts of

An excerpt from

 

The day’s last bell rang. Miss Anitica nodded her head and dismissed the class.

I got home just in time. She was bending over the granite washtub.

Grandma stood up, reached for her towel and slowly started to dry her hair….Then she saw me, and bending over, she kissed my forehead.

I asked her, "Grandma give me your blessing."

May God bless you," she said.

The bedroom opened onto the passageway where many herbs were growing…

…then she turned to me and said, "Under these little hair bows….are family pictures and holy cards of Santa Bárbara, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and San Lázaro.

I also remember seeing a Bible in grandma’s trunk….

I said, "I love you grandma. You will be in my heart always."

Praise for

Grandma’s Trunk/El baúl de Mamaíta

"In

Grandma's Trunk / El Baúl de Mamaíta author María Luisa Retana offers an encouraging, comforting, and multicultural experience for children dealing with grief and renewal."
Raymond Gonzales, Librarian
"Grandma's Trunk / El Baúl de Mamaíta give the reader a tender scene about the special relationship between a child, a beloved grandmother and a treasured keepsake. After many years, the child's wish concerning the ritual is fulfilled."
Joan Reichel
www.multilingual-matters.com

"This title is a powerful and sweet book for those who have suffered the loss of a grandparent."
E. Smith

 

"Grief without despair ... this book is beautiful and sensitive. It shows sadness without despair, and hope and joy in the depth of love."
Samantha Brown

"These illustrations bring their own special complement of warmth, color, affection and care to the narrative. Artist Pat Pollock Rhoads is as simpática and insightful as artist, mother and grandmother can be."
Alvin Sandler

Mrs. Retana is very thankful to Sami Grover, editor of The Bilingual Family Newsletter, for inviting her to write this article published in the Fall of 2007 in Clevedon, England. For more information on multicultural issues please visit:

 

Web Site: Maria Retana's Books



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