In our barrio, any kid worth her café con leche knew what the rumble of a motorcycle meant. Another family was about to disappear.
Until that night, I ran fast and free over Juanelo’s crumbling streets, hunting crinkly brown lizards in the dusty yards, gossiping with the omnipresent abuelas. The old women took care of us while our parents worked at places like the school on the corner or the canning factory down by the river. Four generations of my family lived all around me. No one shut her windows or doors. Everybody knew everything about everyone.
At first, it seems simple to outline the role of place in poems by Reina María Rodríguez. She began writing poetry in Havana, Cuba, a city that permeates much of her work. She grew up in a building on Ánimas Street, not far from the ocean, in a neighborhood of modest means. Eventually she and her partner built a tiny apartment on that same building’s roof out of largely recycled materials, and there they ran a historic, open-air cultural salon in the 1990s. Today Rodríguez remains interested in everyday life, in the realities accessible to inhabitants moving through the city streets. Alongside her explorations of the present, she incorporates memories from her neighborhood into many poems.