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My Friend, Francisco
Photo: David Gilder
You can smell the aroma of coffee from a couple of blocks away from “Café Cuba.” Francisco, the owner and friend, is a warm and pleasant Cuban, just like the espressos and coffees he serves from day to day…week to week.

Francisco, like many other Cubans, was fed up with the oppressive regime that governed his island home and moved to Chile, to find new opportunities. But, he was forced to leave alone because neither his wife nor son was given visas to leave Cuba. And now, he can never return to his country.

I’ve made a stop on my way home, after the radio program I host daily at one of the local stations, and I arrive at his café. But, it looks like my ropa vieja* will have to wait. Seated on a chair, a downcast Francisco meets my gaze. He stands to greet me, gives me a hug, and begins to cry inconsolably. He misses his family so much! He desperately needs them! In a strange land, where the weather is nowhere near that of the Caribbean town of Santa Clara, the absence of his loved ones becomes much harder and the days much longer.

The tastes and sounds of home cannot bring a smile to Francisco’s face. He is too weighed down with his current situation. It hurts too much to remember. As I’ve done on other occasions, I try to lift his spirits by sharing my daily experiences out on the street. He smiles, but it’s not enough to erase so much sadness. Today, my friend, Francisco, is experiencing heartache.

Tears in His Eyes

I tell him that the night before, at the youth meeting at the Adventist church, they spoke about pain and loss. They said that God would wipe away every tear from the eyes of His children. “Francisco, you’re one of them…trust in His promises…God has given them to everyone!  Would you like me to pray for you?” He smiled back at me, with tears in his eyes, and nodded yes.

After savoring and devouring every morsel of that delicious ropa vieja, I get up, pay my bill, and extend my hand to him. Francisco accompanies me to the door and, with his usual smile, says: “Thanks for coming in, Alejandro. You have no idea how good your company and words have been for my soul!  Have a great day, my friend!”

I leave with the assurance that very soon, Francisco will have news from his beloved family and his beautiful Caribbean town of Santa Clara…the sweet fragrance of his coffee followed me all the way home.

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By Alejandro Oscar González Catalán. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

*Shredded Beef in a Tomato Creole Sauce

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