What goes around comes around, no matter how late.
By Paul V. Montesino, Ph.D., MBA, ICCP.
In my childhood, I attended a Jesuit School in Cuba named “Colegio de Belen” for ten years starting in second grade and ending with a Bachelor of Science degree graduation in High School as part of the Class of 1955.
The Jesuits are famous for their intellectual skills, the current Pope a good example, and their dedication to education, and my instructors were all experts in their fields. One of my teachers was a Spanish priest named Jose Rubinos Ramos. He was a correspondent member of the Spanish Academy of Language, and a member of the Galician Academy of Language taught Literature at Belen, and was also a ghostwriter at “Diario de la Marina,” one of Cuba’s most prestigious conservative newspapers.
At Belen, he directed an academy where the membership was composed of interested students like me who wanted to practice debating and public speaking and author papers about controversial subjects. The father chose some of those subjects, but in many cases, we picked what we wanted to talk about. The name of the academy was “Academia Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda,” named after a Cuban poetess of the nineteenth century who authored many books and poems until she died at the age of fifty-eight. Her subjects were considered feminists then and would be considered feminists today, proving that our Jesuit teachers did not object to the creative development of new social ideas.
I was an active member of the academy and could say today without hesitation that my history as a writer and speaker was born and cultivated there, a fact that I have not failed to mention on the acknowledgment pages of my published books.
But, of course, I was not alone. There were other members in the academy and soon some of those members developed an affinity of ideas and intentions that created a group within the institution. There were six or seven members in our group: Pepe, Erasmo, Tomas, Candido, Juan, and I. We enjoyed writing and debating even with each other and remained friends after we graduated from school.
Pepe, Erasmo, Tomas, and I remained the closest after we entered the University of Havana and continued our friendship even after classes were suspended by the rebellion against the Batista dictatorship and continued to close or unreliable after the Castro revolution took over. My mother felt a special affection for my school friends, and she always tried to cook something special for them whenever we met at our home, which was often.
One of them, Pepe, Landa was his last name, had become active in the anti-Castro movement, left Cuba, and returned with the Bay of Pig invaders, was captured, and suffered prison until a couple of years later the Kennedy administration paid millions in ransom to free the prisoners and allow them to fly to Miami to continue with their interrupted lives.
I had married and moved to Miami with my wife, then to Boston to become a banker, a college professor later, and more recently a newspaper columnist, book writer, and publisher. Erasmo and his wife had also left Cuba, but unfortunately, he died young of a heart condition only a few years later.
As for Pepe, he went to medical school, became a successful pulmonary doctor, and died three and a half years ago. Tomas stayed in Cuba, and we never heard of him. But let’s move the clock forward to May of 2022. The place is Gloucester, Massachusetts, on the occasion of the wedding of Albert, at twenty-five years old my oldest grandchild.
I had been invited to say a few words. Not wanting to take a lot of time at a ceremony celebrated by one hundred and forty people, I borrowed some biblical words from Ephesians and did my part. The audience not only praised my words but also my good sense of not lengthening the wait for food and booze.
But here comes the best part. After my short preaching, a nice-looking young couple approached me to congratulate me for my intervention, and then the lady said:
“You are from Cuba, right?”
“Yes, we are.” I felt proud. She introduced her name as Michelle.
“Are you familiar with Colegio de Belen?” she added. At this point, I started to feel shocked and felt prouder. Something was telling me that this was only the beginning.
“Yes, I am. That was my school for ten years of my life.” I said with enthusiasm.
“Are you familiar with Pepe Landa?” She added.
“Of course, Pepe Landa, “I said, “He was one of my best friends.” Shock, pride, and intrigue became mixed.
“Well,” she said adding a big smile, “he was my grandfather.”
My wife and I smiled widely as well. The memory of my younger years came back with a torrent of emotions. We felt that Pepe had decided to crash our wedding and give us a hug like we used to do after we argued and debated, but this time there was no debate and he had sent his granddaughter instead. Michelle had met my grandson and his bride at Cornell University. There was the realization that what goes around comes around and in many cases, it simply feels good.
And that is my point of view today.