2 Windows and a Door

2 Windows and a Door

Door to the middle or Door to the side

None of them were more than 20‘ wide.

High peaked roofs with shiny metal shingles

Large open porches where folks could mingle.

Why did it take me so long

To learn my Cuban American history?

I must have walked by those houses

Hundreds of time as a child

But, their story remained a mystery.

Finally I learned about the 5 Varela boys

Who came from Cuba on a big sailing ship.

Made a living rolling cigars

That were shipped . . .  around the world.

Mr. Gato had a good thing going

Made lots of money

And it sure was showing

In the many factories

And worker’s houses surrounding.

They even named a village for him

As the neighborhood’s founder.

Street cars, hospitals and Cigar Maker Cottages

This was the city of my uncles and grandfather.

5 of them lived in a 2 room flat

Till they each met and married Island Girls

And moved into their own

2 Windows and a Door.

And me in my ignorance

Came back to Key West

To live in Grandpa’s house

Not knowing how old it was

Or the tremendous impact

The Cigar industry had on this island city.

Through the years those Cigar Maker Cottages

Went through a lot of renovations

Now it’ll cost you a cool million to own one

With a pool and privacy fencing.

Sometimes at night when I walk

Through these cracked and aging streets,

A breeze comes up from Old North Beach.

I catch the sound of Domino chips

Banging on a kitchen table,

Or hear the rhythm of a conga drum        

And, I know . . . I’m home . . .In my own

2 Windows and a Door.


J.M. Varela