In Cuba, searching for a lost past in Marcané

Journey back to childhood home brings back memories

LOYNAZ HECHEVARRIA, Cuba – Visiting their parents' childhood home is part of the journey of every Cuban-American returning to the island. It was also the desire of Felipe Lozano, who has lived in Cuba all of his life.

Singer Gloria Estefan and songwriter Fabio Alonso Salgado tapped into Cuban exiles' perception of home in their song "Mi Tierra," Spanish for my homeland. The lyrics include the words "melancholia" and "nostalgia."

For Lozano, the song "Chan Chan" was the most appropriate for the search. It's the signature track of the Buena Vista Social Club. The music legends recently played it at the White House.

The song's lyrics mention four towns in the Cuban province of Holguin: "From Alto Cedro, I go towards Marcané. I get to Cueto, head for Mayarí."

Lozano was looking for a home in the small town of Marcané at Loynaz Hechevarria.  For some, the journey back to the childhood home is a way to re-experience feelings. Curious Cuban-Americans seem to be returning in an attempt to understand their parents and grandparents torturous nostalgia, after years of not being able to return home.

Although for some making the pilgrimage back home, can mean a sense of closure, for others the experience may evoke a visceral reaction. The journey can be risky and unpredictable.

Some of Fidel Castro's first changes in public policy focused on prohibiting the selling or buying of residential real estate, which restricted mobility. But Cubans still swapped homes under the table without being able to update a property title. Some Cuban-Americans have gotten lucky and have been able to find relatives they had never even known of.

Raul Castro changed that in 2011, when Cubans were allowed to update titles, and own both a primary residence and a vacation home. Cuba's housing stock consists of 3.9 million residential units, 85 percent of which are privately owned, according to Brookings, a non-profit research institution. But since both buyers and sellers of real estate have to pay a four percent tax, informal exchanges are still happening.

Lozano grew up poor, he said. He was one of nine children. His sister Maria Lacamoire left Cuba in 1957. His niece Michelle Lacamoire was born in the United States and is a producer for Miami's ABC News affiliate Local 10 News. He was the devoted guide who helped make the month-long Historic Access: Cuba Coast to Coast journey possible.

When Lozano arrived at the house, where he and Lacamoire's mom grew up in Marcané. He was immediately in tears. His first thought, he said, was his mother Maria Lozano. He got down under a door frame and started to sob. That was where she would tie him down, so he would not disappear for the day, he said.

The visit triggered overwhelming feelings of grief for Lozano. Lacamoire's eyes filled with tears. The home has an immediate influence of self-definition. Lozano reverted back to the little boy he was when he lived there. And then, as if attempting to find resolution, he said, "My mischief didn't mean that I wasn't good to her."

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