It’s September 8, 1979. Even though the night is humid, there’s a slight breeze coming off the bay and it helps cool us down as we stand waiting for her to arrive. We know she is coming, there is no doubt about that, but she’s late. Isn’t it typical for a Cuban to be late? I know I should be accustomed to that, but the desire to see her is great and so I hope that maybe, just maybe, this one time she would put aside her cubanicity and appear on time. But no, she’s late.
I know she’s coming by boat so maybe the seas are a bit rough and it has delayed her. Or maybe the men manning the boat couldn’t get the engine started or maybe she got seasick. I doubt that, she’s a weathered traveler. She’s been traveling for years, all over the globe, by ground, sea, and air. No, she’s not seasick. Maybe she’s just being fashionably late.
As I look around I am impressed with the tens of thousands of people waiting for her. They express an excitement that is contagious and it’s very easy to get caught up in it. I’m with my grandparents and they too are as happy as clams. I expect it from my grandfather, he’s always worn his emotions on his sleeve. To see him cheer and wave his white handkerchief in the air is par for the course. But to see my grandmother who, although born in Cuba, inherited her father’s moderately cold Irish blood, jumping up and down and waving her arms is surprising.
I love the venue. Even though I always thought that Marine Stadium in Key Biscayne was haunted, it looks beautiful lit up at night. My father told me that years ago he had been here once for a Beach Boys concert, but even though the huge crowd is singing, the words say nothing about California girls, beaches, or surfing. No, these songs are being led by a little old man with white hair, standing at a podium. He too, like my grandfather, is waving a white handkerchief. He is screaming out so loudly that I really can’t make out what he’s saying. It amazes me that such a big noise can come out of such a small man.
Finally she arrives. I can tell because the women around me, except my grandmother of course (remember the icy blood), are crying. I really can’t see much because I’m only ten years old and everyone insists on standing and blocking my view. I figure that when she makes it to the stage things will calm down and I will get my chance to finally see her. I’ve seen her before by the way. Twice actually. I admit that both times I paid little attention to her because I was with my brothers and was more interested in running around with them than I was with standing with adults as they muttered words to her that I didn’t fully understand.
But now it is different. I’m ten and have learned to appreciate her. I’ve learned to appreciate her beauty, her simplicity, her purity, and, especially, her courage. I was so impressed when I was told that when she was only fifteen, just five years older than I was, she was entrusted with the most important task in human history. A task that she saw through without question or complaint. Wow, I can’t even get my math homework done without whining. It’s no wonder so many people admire and love her. It’s no wonder so many people place their hopes and dreams in her.
As she stands on center stage I catch a glimpse of her through the crowd. If I stand with my head cocked to the side I can just make her out in her beautiful light blue dress. She carries her child in her right arm and a little cross in her left. By this time I realize the crowd is not going to sit down so I decide to stand on my seat to get a better view. As I see her, I can finally make out the words that the little old man has been screaming: ¡Virgen de la Caridad… salva Cuba! I start to scream too. I hope she can hear me.
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain. The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline. In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty. The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow. Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.