Carilda with Holly
Adventure Divas
Carilda Olivar Labra hugs Holly Morris

Carilda is a poet of indeterminate age — somewhere in her 70s — and a woman deemed a Cuban national treasure. We knew she was a diva when we spotted her 30-something husband. Ah, but that is to take Carilda too lightly — although love is a main theme of her poetry.

We visited Carilda in her small but elegant home (Urban Outfitter fantasy-world) in Matanzas. Carilda writes passionately about Matanzas, the province where she was born, and the bitter-sweet emotional territory that comes with separation from her entire family, all of whom have left Cuba, many to settle in the United States.

Her first collection, Lyric Prelude, quickly established her as an important voice in poetry and she remains one of Cuba’s leading poets. In 1950, she won the National Prize for poetry for her book At the South of My Throat.

From the Interview: “When my grandmother came from Spain, married with her three little kids, one of which was my mother, she brought a little bit of Spanish soil in bag. Once in a while, I would see my grandmother taking the little bag that contained the soil and smelling it, thinking, ‘Ay, my Spanish land, I will never go back to Spain,’ with such nostalgia and sadness. Then, when my mother went into exile, I remember that she searched for a little bag and filled it with Cuban soil. When I visited her for the first time in the United States, she said to me: ‘Didn’t you bring a little bit of soil?’ I said: ‘But, you already have a little bit of soil.’ She said: ‘Yes, but it has lost the scent of Cuba.’ That’s why this poem was born:

When my grandmother came,
she brought a little bit of Spanish soil.
When my mother left,
she took a little bit of Cuban soil.
I will not keep with me
any bit of native land,
I want it all over my grave

Coordinates: Cuba

Carilda Olivar Labra


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