Adriana Fernandez-Silva and Patricio Uribasterra

Recorded January 30, 2010 Archived January 30, 2010 38:46 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX006307


Adriana Fernandez-Silva (95) talks with her grandson Patricio Uribasterra (35) about her family and life in Cuba, her experience as an exile, and moving to New York.

Subject Log / Time Code

Adriana’s father was a doctor, who studied medicine at the Sorbonne.
Adriana’s sister died of measles when she was 14. They were living in France at the time. They returned to Cuba with her body.
Adriana tells a story about Maria de los Reyes, the family nanny whose parents were once family slaves. They bought Maria’s mother, and because she was pregnant, the also bought her father. They had come on a boat from Africa. The family stayed with their family for generations.
Adriana’s husband died when he was 40 from a car crash. Adriana wishes she could have prevented it and been with it, but she was with her children. Patricio reminds her that she has always been there for her children.
Adriana lost everything when Castro came into power. She escaped the country by baking $200 into meringues that she gave to her daughter to hold, saying, “defend this with your life. It’s the only life we’re going to have.”
Adriana tried to get jobs in factories but couldn’t work sewing machines. They ended up in New York, where she got a job with Phoenix of London as a secretary.
Patricio has always seen his grandmother as fiercely independent. He asks how she did it. She says, “I’m not the only one. There have been thousands of women.”


  • Adriana Fernandez-Silva
  • Patricio Uribasterra


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00:02 My name is Patricia Woody Becerra. I am 35 years old and today's date is January 30th, 2010 and we are in Miami Florida. My partner here. I know.

00:18 Ahmad Rihanna, if it's sealed, and sometimes because they know the Americans in the bank on everything is very difficult. So I put on Rihanna, If silver is my name. I am 95 years old and I was born in March 27th 1914.

00:54 Leidos and we are in Miami, Florida.

01:03 You're my Abuelita, so I have to call you because I can't call you.

01:15 So, tell me, where, where were you, born?

01:22 Home and you said it was 1914. 1914 27th of March and what is your maiden name?

01:32 Well, I haven't any but I don't use it. I use only my name and Rihanna, go to the mola, mola the last name. Well, my great-grandfather came from France. He was a doctor. He is studying at the University of sorbonne in Paris. And he was a very good doctor. He arrived to a my way. And it doesn't one of the parts of Cuba. And he looks sent to France for his papers because he wanted to marry, and

02:30 A lady that was the daughter of a general in Cuba and he asked for the papers to Hyundai Santa with his title of doctor.

02:47 Medicine.

02:54 And then she was born in Cuba, born and killed this morning in France. That friendship, young girl, 18. I sent you off. If I was there like that many children. I don't remember even the quantity, but I know that they were many of them.

03:17 And and you've been to France. Also, when you were when you were much younger, friends, our father to go there to learn French, and I was for two years in this, sacred car school learning, French moth and later on my sister died, unfortunately, and we came back to you on my mother didn't want to hear anybody speaking in French because she hate me.

03:49 Well, tell me about your sister. I know it was a difficult time for you, then fourteen, when she died, and he was, very beautiful. And she was in the school with me.

04:03 There is nothing I can talk to her except that she was a very beautiful girl. And what was she like, what was she like you said, she was beautiful. What she were? You were you very close.

04:26 Of course. And how did she take Leila to do you want to know how it would look very white baby, Rosie. And you have a beautiful red hair, like my father, that will sell red hair to on the same. I only 14. So it's an issue with children. Change the law of getting sick with neither. No problem. Is that the song girls from Peru? Came to, the school is a credit card and they, they have their in their account, free sample. I'm missing one of them almost died. So we get very, very close like friends, you know, Hindi,

05:26 School Adam. She was still going to take us to die because of that to you or your brother. What is your brother's name? What is your brother's name? And he's older than you or younger than friends with a just a couple of years. We want to hurt Mike. We brought her back because she asked for it, but it was Ian and will you happy to come back to to Cuba on my father to my mother?

06:16 So what did your father think about school and for you for for girls and in general look at school. They were very close like soccer. I just started for us. I was very thin and beneath and online because of the loss of my sister Labor Day teacher at the house that game, like we call it in Spanish. I don't know instructions inside the trees, that means a lady that is a with you all the time and tissue.

07:00 And what was it like, what was life? Like, in general being, you know, a young woman and and very nice and very beautiful. I love it. We will have their gloves with went to the club every day swimming playing Danny's everything. So many things, you know, I am good. How are you? You went to a lot of clubs in, in Havana was a very social life. Is that it? Did you how did you meet your your husband?

07:41 On a friend's house in a body and he was, we were introduced on a year later. We were married. No, but that's not the story. Tell me the real story. Tell me that. Tell me how

07:56 How he wanted to how he met. You tell me how tell me about the about how he introduced himself to you a little boy and see how you look at me and like me. And then when I, when we sit down he came and he told him, I please introduce me to your friend and he said no, I don't want to introduce you because you are going to take her away. Now, I won't, they were kidding, of course and

08:35 You know, in a little while the owner of the house, stole the discussion between them and Kane and he said to him, no. No, I want to lose you either. And when he went away and then he came back and needs with you skin because in Cuba, a girl down for a, stay with avoid unless the family knew him.

09:05 You know, it was a different way. Now today doesn't need nothing. Only they look.

09:13 What did what did your family think of him? And yes, I got no, come on. So what is his name? You didn't tell us your husband's name?

09:34 And where were you married? If that's a compound name to like mine. Is it going down? There is nothing to means. That it was always like that. Okay, and so, where do you remember when we went to the same place? We went to the same places. We went for was a chopper with almost every night.

10:06 Tell me about.

10:09 You know what he did for a living and what your life was like, what the, what did the was, it was life insurance that they also ensure boat Insurance, firms, life. Did you have one house or more than one house? So, tell me about your houses and tell you is so long, you know, you had a thought, you had a townhouse in in Havana.

10:53 Medium. I was one of the places of Cuba was very, very beautiful. Things like that church has beautiful. Everything was beautiful and you had a place in the country. Also, I have it. Go farm my father, a couple of farms trouble for rice and

11:16 How did you learn how to drive at 7 years old? How? Well, we are there at your fair and his assistance was a very cute little boy and not Mozart on 15 or 16 years old. And he told me you wanted to learn how to and I said, yes, I want to learn. So he taught me how to do and you know, those old cars, they were different from now. You have to

11:59 I know Noah name mean in Spanish. The turnover.

12:23 Or all this before with his invoice about this. Because he has an interesting story. Also, doesn't he? I don't know. I was in labor. You know, that when you were a child, there was someone that helped you and Maria De Los Reyes. Well here. I thought I saw that if I tell you about Maria, De Los Reyes.

13:07 You could read the book, write a book about her.

13:16 The daughter of one of those that came to Kiawah in boats with about 8:50, or black people, slaves, and slaves, free game like that. And my mother had a house full of people in English.

14:04 Hold like a factory and it was a very large one. They call a very small but it was a big one. I saw it. And I saw the house already and do the, do the do the farm to work was my grandmother was at the house until so hard that she was going to have a baby. And you said, I want this girl. Give me this girl to her husband and he said, well, it's yours and she took it to the house and you had a baby and the baby was at the house.

14:53 I don't want her husband to work like them, too. I knew they were married by the priest in the in the boat and stole a team. They both bowls of the slaves to the house and they work for all the time and Maria De Los Reyes was born. Then, you know, there is a like a servant for years and years and later on when my mother had a husband and a house. She wasn't home. That's why it is called Maria De Los Reyes magos. She was born today of the

15:37 Leaking in the Bible, when they can just come to see the baby. She wants one that day and she was constipated, but just stay at the house, because her mother and her father were there. So, she has a working. Now, when, when they bought Maria, De Los Reyes mother when she was pregnant.

16:10 Did the idea was to buy the mother, but how did how did you end up buying the doll that was married to her. I said to my grandfather and father. I am her husband. I didn't say this. Actually. You said, yes, I'll see you later than they have. Always had a priest in the same area. I'm supposed to be already, had my area that were house. Do you know, they were 18, 19? Something I got, they were better. You are you close to my area?

16:57 Two girls that one.

17:00 We all love her.

17:02 And besides Nikki Theodore my mother and my father, she has a there tomorrow later in her life because when I met her two balls on Old Lady,

17:18 Auntie was very happy.

17:22 Tell me about.

17:27 Around 1958, and 1959. There was a change in the government and Cuba and you have to be faced a lot of changes in your life. Everything I have and I had to go out with my four children by myself. How did you do that? Where did you go?

17:48 Where did you get the money to do that? Where did you get the money to do that to leave Cuba?

17:54 I sold one of my garden $200 and I have a passport, and I came here was $200, and I had already walking at Long Cove house because I sent him ahead of time because I saw that something was going to happen and he was in an age that children are going good for nothing. And I had Anna Maria stalling already. A lot to Salinas and

18:34 Imagine a little girl like that. I'm so I called my brother-in-law and said, I'm going to send because he already had crossed the channels and I'm going to send Anna Maria. And I sent her a game with only going to watch my nana Leticia.

19:01 How many children do you have?

19:04 For what are their names?

19:08 Anna. Maria is a first one.

19:11 Lane walking.

19:13 And then Manuel, I'm never letting

19:17 Okay. I know it was 39 years old. How did that happen to tell me the story 11. I love him very much. I suffered a lot. And what I never saw that castle was gone. And so I live in my own house. I have my allowance as my morning in the bank, and my everything in the bank. They close it behind me to Governor's in, and they took my house. Mostly morning that I receive every Monday, every day and the office was closed. Some people took the place of

20:10 Or maybe the place completely. So I have to come well with Water. Wizz look going to be medium or working on the house that I was leaving. They will try telling that to take my own house where I leaved know. The other houses that they rented, the one I live do. They were going to take it.

20:40 The song. Can you imagine nothing?

20:44 Tell me about how what what happened to your husband when he passed. How did how how did he die?

20:58 Beliefs available for the competition in fishing and Division. And what did he say in the world? I want to go with both of us. If that takes though, and then was a big mouth and he sent it by the sea to go back to Havana.

21:27 I mean we were we have that car back to my house. He wanted to go back to my house driving his self because he wants a new car and it was in New Chrysler and he was crazy about his private island. So he getting Michael diving and no drinker, but I think somebody gave him a little bit of

22:05 How do you say? I feel so no beer for you? And he took it, and he was now that goes home to drink a lot.

22:21 He didn't like it very much. So he done did that. Maybe he went to sleep in driving and

22:36 It must have been ten year old Boston. Very good, and they had to pass it on.

22:47 Bridge on a British British and probably he was asleep and he went down on a car completely.

23:00 Those laws are all the stones on things and he destroyed himself.

23:07 They must have been difficult, being 40 years old.

23:15 I must have been difficult being on your own after that. I mean, it's so sudden. How do you, how do you know if I could leave? But doing my my own life, like a like always, but from what I understand, you guys used to do everything together. Whenever you have free time. You guys were always together. Only We Were

23:41 Most people weren't like that back then, write the husband and the wife usually live Separate Lives because, you know, we was going today.

23:56 Television. He told me. Why don't you come with us with me? And I said, no, because their children are going to swing. I need is a competitive effect and they have been preparing them and I cannot go with you. I can do either you go or not go because I have to go to fishing because

24:24 But now I have to go to the police with name of the children. And so he went, he was the last word. I heard, first, you leave me now for my children.

24:41 And I was very, very sad because I thought I should have gone with him because I know I always drove when he had something and I was very sad and I miss you sad. I chose to have her stay with him. You know, you were there for your children. You were always there for us, you grandchildren. You always took us to the beach into swimming. So every single weekend every times a week, so

25:19 You are always there for us. And when you

25:23 Tell me about actually leaving Cuba because it wasn't just like getting on an airplane and coming over here.

25:36 And the house has a nymph a day Duke, like they own this house has been settled, so I have no money.

25:49 I have the car.

25:52 There were two cars, one was impossible to self because a big car but it was a Chrysler. I couldn't sell it. But I have a Volkswagen for the errands.

26:07 And I told him Most Wanted $200. The other one was.

26:13 There. How did, how did you get that money out of the country weren't they taking money from people? I bought some Merengue. You don't know. What a dog is, is he who is in that whipped egg whites with with sugar, the same thing. And I put it inside a Moringa tea $200, you know, $200.

26:52 I wouldn't things. I it and I gave it to lady. I said

26:57 The vanities with your life because it's the only life we are going to have.

27:04 I think that's the first time I've ever heard. Anybody say, that their life depended on merengue.

27:10 But not, so it was better in your home about 9 years old.

27:26 And my mother Anna. Maria was English. Did she learn to speak English? All of them are used to speak. It better? What? Do you know why? I live in the house and I don't have anybody? That is Spanish. Super 80 years. I have living alone.

28:07 What would you have your whole family here in Miami? But yeah, it'll be a little bit of a lot of old women and you've never wanted to leave there. So we've invited you a lot of times come and live with us when you want to be with her and have a life with her. If you have a mother or grandmother or whatever, looking all over you and criticizing you, your weight is bad for you and Matt for the marriage. Pickable me. Look how many people divorce only because

28:54 This Robin was it mother? I have seen them and I know them.

29:04 I think you're probably the most independent person I ever met without a dog and growing up. When I

29:13 Always thought of you as A Cut Above. Everybody else that I knew you always stood up with your back straight and you didn't let anybody speak rudely to you. I would have taken you handled your business. The things you had to do like nobody else that I had ever known in the hose on that with the house. But but even if you but I mean, you know, I don't think you were like other women in Cuba where, you know, I was like that to all the boys.

29:49 Did you use to shoot guns ever in Cuba? I am very good. I used to be very good. There is more girl. My father taught me how to use a Lee rifle.

30:07 And of course, I went on practicing because my husband like it too. So for me it was

30:18 Like, for you playing ball?

30:22 So, when you tell me about when you went to, New York.

30:26 When you move to me, when you left Cuba after going to a couple different places, you ended up in New York right now with the kids with a family, Do you have any work? It was impossible because there were a thousand Cubans better than me and I was looking for a job and I was not prepared to do a job. I was with Berto to Gerry house to Gary on the house and or teachers, some children. I want to know that these shirts soul.

31:05 It was impossible.

31:08 Impossible. I didn't have any live here. I'm so I moved to New York and I, as soon as I came I went to Phoenix of long long lasting children's company and they gave me a job in New York, but you used to cut fabric to didn't tell me how and why are you still need? Alcohol is used to make, tell me about that. What happened with the factory? They sold me out in every one of them because I didn't know how to work with him. A chance they had

32:06 And they didn't want nobody to do hunting since, you know, now they want in my jeans and I didn't know the machines on the way they talk to you.

32:18 They were negative to talk to you. So you were and they were so many ladies. Waiting for it. It wasn't not me. Only when I saw this waiting for, when you went in one time. You have to show somebody that you could come up with these big scissors, Didn't you have a time when none was the only time I have to, but I had to leave it because I couldn't support it and I was going to be very real and you see some of the world hanging over there and most who caught the, this.

33:04 Big pieces of fabric and I had to cut through there and you have to be to gamble in Vegas and then we'll work with it and they will, you know, pushing you up all the time and you were calling and I wasn't very good at that button and won't later. I couldn't move my arm. I was going to cost some to that different people here thinks. I'm very nosey. Tell me about about your two sons. They went to Vietnam on the other two men in Vietnam.

33:55 The first one with walking not the one we came from queue up. He wanted to, he saw that the American were going to Cuba and defend her from Castro and she was wrong.

34:11 They were never going to do it. So he went to the Army and introduced himself and was accepted and he became an even.

34:25 Lieutenant.

34:27 And everything they wanted him to say because he was very good, but they never went to Cuba and he was disappointed in that land on the walking. I'm walking 1 mile. I went because he wanted to go see his brother has been in the Army and he wanted to be in the Army too. I'm so hit 12, and he went to Vietnam and you became a captain. He was very good too and they won't let him to say. They try to make a mistake, but he didn't want to after they wore his head. No, I am not going back.

35:13 I need to retire.

35:16 So both of them, but they never help me. They never said, you didn't want them to send. You know, I didn't want what was it like with them gone? Were you worried about them? I was very worrying.

35:38 Sometimes I came back.

35:41 Do the house crying and maple don't like science. With a list of the people that have died.

36:01 Imagine I was looking at those lists trembling.

36:09 What is such a huge change in your life to be from being?

36:14 The wealthy wife of a of a Cuban businessman to moving to New York and raising a family by yourself.

36:26 How did he do it? I mean, what is it about you that help you get through that tough time? Because I'm not the only one thousand of women that have done that, but I am not a beautiful what I need for baby to work. I'm driving, but they did. Today. I am not the only one. Believe me. I had many friends I have on the same problem that I have.

37:00 They were in the same situation that I had and I'm not the only one.

37:08 It won't be no. We're getting to the end of the interview. Is there anything that you wanted to say or anything about your life? Do you have any advice for your grandchildren?

37:19 Slow me down, you know, my song know, Morgan was.

37:24 He don't always says but the ones he wrote me a letter and he said I'm sending you this.

37:32 Not because you are my mother.

37:36 But because you told us to women.

37:44 You care for us all the time in health and in sickness and everything. And you saw those. How do we go to the straight way? Always follow the way straight. Don't take it to decide because it's by.

38:11 And that's why I am sending you this and you send me something.

38:18 Thank you, always. And I think that's, that's the end of the interview and I love you very much. And you're so does your whole family.

38:39 You'll be loved again.