Mercedes haciendo café (Merecedes Making Coffee)Cuba Series - Painting #12
Acrylic on canvas - 36" x 48"
The last piece in my series was of my cousin Orlando. In this painting I portray his sister, Mercedez. She was the first member of my family in Cuba that I met. I immediately felt a connection to her, firstly because she looked just like all the women on my grandmothers side of the family. But it was her warmth and openness that drew me in. She had heard that I was coming but we had never spoken prior to my arrival. She seemed to be a bit beside herself that someone from America (New York no less) had come to visit her and her family in her home.
Theres no easy way to say it; Mercedez lives in poverty. She lives with her son in what we here might call a shack. Somehow within its confines there were a few modern amenities; a refrigerator, tv, dvd player and a phone. The structure housing these items was barely holding together. A concrete wall on one side and on the other wooden slats, nailed and lashed together in whatever way they could manage, occasionally patched together with cardboard. The roof was a combination of metal sheets and wood. A sitting room in the front and the kitchen in the back had been destroyed by a recent hurricane which forced them to squeeze their belongings into an even smaller area. What living space remains has been partitioned into 2 areas, a bedroom where she sleeps with her son (in the same bed), and a kitchen area with a sink but no running water.
I've actually seen worse conditons in parts of Costa Rica and Panama that I had visited, and though heartbreaking I wasn't related to them. This was different and I honestly didn't know what to feel. She put up a brave face but I could tell that the living situation was weighing on her emotionally. At the very least she had her son to help her and all the neighbors seem to look out for each other. The support system is there.
After I told her of my travels and we discussed family she offered to make me a cup of coffee, the one luxury she could offer me. It tasted amazing. You couldn't get a better espresso in the fanciest Italian cafe. I savored every drop of it.