Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

Fernando continued walking past the immigration checkpoint, still searching for his friend Ignacio. He noticed a small railway depot ahead of him. Gathering near the station were some fellow passengers as well as other travelers from another ship that had arrived shortly before Mascotte. For some reason, Ignacio had told him to wait near the modest train station and he would find him. He joined the others near the platform.

The well-dressed and impressive-looking Cuban gentleman with whom he had briefly chatted on the ship approached him, his hand outstretched.

 "Me llamo Belarmino Pedroso. Encantado conocerle". Fernando was impressed with his engaging smile and his use of the formal, versus familiar, reference to the grammatical second person in introducing himself. The manner of speech seemed simultaneously Cuban and continental Spanish.

 "Soy Fernando Suárez Menéndez. Igualmente, un placer". Fernando had politely reciprocated the introduction with a smile and a firm handshake.

 Belarmino's act of kindness had put Fernando somewhat at ease, as he continued to somewhat apprehensively search the crowd for Ignacio. He was grateful for the man having reached out to him.

 The two men began an exchange of pleasantries. As the conversation continued, Fernando continued to detect in Belarmino's speech pattern a hint of the rhythm and accent typical of many Afro-Cubans he had met during his years in Havana. However, it was not quite the same. His curiosity must have shown on his face, as the Cuban's smile widened.

 "Estás un poco confundido, no?" Belarmino had asked if he was confused. With a chuckle he explained that his dad was a Spanish tobacco grower and his mother, an Afro-Cuban descendant of west African slaves, was a cook and house maid in the plantation manor.

 At this moment, Fernando felt somewhat embarrassed that his curiosity had been so obvious.

 "Con calma, por favor! Estoy muy cómodo con quien soy. Entiendo bien ambos mundos, y llevo mucho orgullo de ser de ambos mundos!"

 He had assured Fernando that no offense had been taken, and he was quite comfortable with himself, and proud of his biracial heritage.

 The young Spaniard was in awe of this confident, intelligent man. Belarmino appeared to be just a bit older than he, but he exuded a confidence and maturity that belied his youth.

 Belarmino, glancing at his exposed arm, exclaimed, with a smile: "Me puedes llamar por mi apodo....Café con Leche".

 The endearing Cuban had told Fernando to call him by his nick-name, "Coffee With Milk", a reference to his exotically beautiful complexion.

 The young Spaniard sensed that perhaps a friendship was in the making.

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This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020