Thursday, January 31, 2013


When she was learning to walk men were learning to fly, when she was learning to talk, men stopped talking to each other altogether and started World War I.
With great trepidation and foreboding I write this about my mom. Yes, she’s gone and I will miss her and her smile which was rare due to her cantankerous nature; but just because it wasn’t frequent it was just what made it so special, I will miss having become the parent and her the child.

La Gran Dama Eloi, which inspired me to write a book and then make it into a blog; telling her story, compiling her account of events and her experiences during her very long life. Mom made it to see her 97th birthday and somehow I had the feeling it was her last as she blew the 9 and 7 candles on the cake my partner’s mother baked for her. 

My mom (right) and her sister Nina (left)
My mom traveled often to her birthplace in Cuba; sometimes even more than twice a year and even before it was legal to do so prior to the U.S. Government allowing Cuban-Americans permission to visit relatives.

 She had a brother 17 years younger whom she raised and who she regaled the status of son. There was also the only other surviving Valiente sibling: my aunt Nina, ten years younger and in poor health. My mom was so attached to these two that she managed to get my aunt out of Cuba and have her go to the Dominican Republic where she cared for her until just a couple of years ago when she became very sick and returned to Cuba for free medical care.

After my aunt’s passing I brought her to live with me and my partner’s extended family and all seven of us lived harmoniously with a sprinkle of drama provided by mom who was by all accounts the epitome of the Cuban drama queen.

During one of my mom’s earlier visit to Cuba, at the time the Cuban government was more than happy to have the exiles visit and bring American dollars…but there was a catch: they had to take a “tour” where they were shown the supposedly great accomplishments of the Revolution. My mom arrived in Cuba just about the time the funeral procession for her sister was departing for the cemetery, the eldest of the Valiente family died and mom did not get to see her as she was only able to witness the closed casket as it was lowered into the family vault.

Our hometown – Bejucal – town center
But mom’s grief made her forget everything and in the process skipped the “tour” offered by the Cuban government which was supposed to be “voluntary” but as she was departing on her return to America she was questioned about not taking the “tour” and she told the first Cuban Immigration official that she almost missed her sister’s funeral; then one very arrogant Cuban Immigration official said to her: “Señora, I see here that you didn’t take advantage of the generosity of our great revolution in the offering of a free tour to show you traitor exiles how we have progressed and made such great accomplishments” 

The street where we lived,
taken from the front porch
My mom responded to him with a litany of profanities and insults to which the poor man was so humiliated that the only reaction he could muster was to slap her in the face and threaten her to not allowing her to get on the plane until she took the tour. Somehow, there was a supervisor who may have overheard the man’s arrogance and allowed my mom to board the plane and when she did, the flight that was being delayed because of her incident…all the passengers applauded when they saw her come in the door.

I think that is the one incident that defined my mom best: a fighter, a progressive liberal, who voted not for Democrats but against any and all Republicans, one who loved her adopted country – America with the great passion and patriotism as she did her native land. She was a combative and antagonistic person who was unflappable and not easily silenced; after all, she had to be that and more to be able to have been married to my father for more than 55 years.

My mom, just like most Cuban women employed the guilt technique on family and friends and if the Jewish moms are said to use this to the hilt; I think my mom would give them a run for their money. Once such incident I found amusing was when she gave me two shirts for my birthday. I of course had to say I liked them and thanked her and then wore one for the first time. She saw me, looked at the shirt and said: “I see you’re wearing the shirt I gave you as a gift for your birthday…what’s the matter, you didn’t like the other one?”

My mom’s cigar table may have 
looked like this after a day’s labor
My mom started working making cigars in our hometown tobacco factory when she was 11 and never stopped working even after she retired at age 89 and did so only because she went to take care of her sister in Santo Domingo; to her work was not a burden but a pleasure and one of the few people I have known who actually looked forward to the next day in order to go to work…even when the work she did was strenuous or demeaning…she did it all, from making cigars to supervising the Cuban Lottery’s weekly drawings, from domestic servant to factory work. She also returned to trade school in her fifties and learned to sew and that provided her with a skill to secure a loftier better paying job as a seamstress which is what she did until she retired.

She is survived by me, the only son and two grand-daughters: Diurys Olivia Murphy and Darlyn Odette Rodriguez-Hayes both of Seattle, Washington.
I want to thank each and everyone who has been so gracious and kind by offering me support and get well wishes. 

Cuentos de la Tía Eloi -

My mom as a 20 year old, her nickname 
was “El Merenguito” (the cream puff)

Por Raúl Rodríguez Valiente Copyright 2008, 1-94170031 Estos cuentos cubren un periodo de aproximadamente 100 años, visto tras los grises ojos de Eloina Valiente, nonagenaria dama que nos relata y obsequia con una ojeada a la Cuba de ayer al igual que las observaciones de Eloi de sucesos y temas contemporáneos. Es una tajada de la cultura, del pueblo, la historia de Cuba y en especial el pueblito de Bejucal.


  1. My deepest sympathy for your loss my friend. the rat

  2. My sincere condolences to you Raulito, and your family. What a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman.

  3. Sincere sympathy for your loss. Your post was a great testament
    to a life well-lived. They dont make them like La Gran Dama anymore.

  4. raulito, my sincerest sympathy for the loss of your lovely Madre - may the angels wing her to eternal rest, and comfort you with happy memories of a life well lived.

  5. Raultio, know we are thinking of you. Such a wonderful post to celebrate who your mom was and how vibrant a life she lived. Thanks for sharing the great stories and the beautiful photos of her. Take care of yourself.

  6. My deepest condolences to you and your Family. Your Mom sounds like an interesting person who led a full life. I'm so sorry for your loss.