The Story of Ali Calienes Berrayarza

Once when I was young I lived in Paradise, I did not know it then, perhaps I was too young to know.  I swam in its waters and chased the ducks and the flamingos that lived there.  It was a place in the north hills of Cuba where a spring of medicinal waters flowed into swimming pools and lakes and finally emptying its water into a river.

I arrived in Paradise when I was 4 days old.  My father brought my mother and I there in his airplane. We landed at the airport, that my family built so people could come to this remote location.     
My parents took me to live at the school house. It was a house attached to a one room school and across from the airport, that way my father could be close to his airplane. I shared a room with my older brother Ruly. Also, with us lived our Nanny or Tata. She took care of my brother and I.  
Tata always had her hair tied in a bun and dressed in white because that was her uniform. She was tall because when she held my hand I could look at the scars on her knees. She would not tell me how she got them, but I heard my mother tell the story of how Tata threw herself on the rocks to save me from getting hurt the day I fell in the river. To think that she was of a different color skin  bothered me. One day, I realized that Tata was the beautiful blue color of the sea. My family learning of my discovery called her la Tata Azul. 
One day my mother arrived at the airport with another baby it  was my brother Jorge. Now were three to take care of and that was alot.  One day Tata  announced that she would have to leave us because she was going to have children of her own and needed to love them as much as she loved me. It made me cry when I heard about her departure, but my mother told me that  some day I would understand what she meant by that.  Then my parents moved to one of the small houses in the resort.  

My family always moved from one house to another. San Jose del Lago had many houses, a two story house of white pillars overlooking its lakes, a restaurant, three small houses on the main road,  and picturesque cottages built around the river and its colorful gardens. I heard my family talk about how Grandfather Abuelo was building a Taino Village, with houses like the first people that lived on the island. I guess he thought of himself as the chief or cacique and built himself a big one. Then they all moved in and the big white house by the lake became the hotel. Abuelo called his new home “Rancho Chico”.   
My Grandmother and Grandfather, and their families lived in many houses and moved often. The adults worked running the place. My cousins, my brothers, and I......just played in Paradise, San José del Lago.

 This was my family, the Berrayarzas.  In the back row from the left, Raúl Calienes, my father and my mother Alicia Berrayarza. Ricardo Berrayarza, his wife Marita Sust, and their children Tito and Tere. My aunt Luisa (I nicknamed her Mima) and standing next to her, Luis Karakadze, her son.  Sitting down, my grandfather Don Arturo Berrayarza, and on his lap my brother Jorge. Also sitting, my grandmother Doña Maria Luisa Roig and next to her kneeling down, my cousin  Dicky Karakadze. Sitting in front, from the left my cousin Arturo Berrayarza Sust, my brother Ruly and I.... as always sitting close to my grandmother.
Missing from this picture are my little brother Jose who was not born then and our cousin Irma Berrayarza who lived in Havana with her husband Mario Ca
mbó, who was a famous TV producer.
 Esta era mi familia Berrayarza. En la hilera de atrás empezando por la izquierda, Raúl Calienes, mi papá y mi mamá, Alicia Berrayarza.  Tio Ricardo Berrayarza, mi tia Marita Sust y sus hijos Tito y Tere.  Mi tia Luisa (Yo la llamaba Mima) y al lado de ella su hijo Luis Karakadze.  Sentado en una silla mi abuelo Don Arturo Berrayarza con mi hermano Jorge en sus piernas.  Tambien sentada  mi abuela Doña Maria Luisa Roig y  a su lado de rodillas mi primo Dicky Karakadze. En el frente de la izquierda mi primo Arturo Berrayarza Sust, mi hermano Ruly y yo.....como siempre cerca de abuela. 
Los que faltan son mi hermano José Antonio que no había nacido y la prima hermana de mi mamá, Irma Berrayarza que vivía en La Habana con su esposo Mario Cambó, que era un famoso productor de CMQ.

  I adored my vacations from school at the resort because I would spend my days at the resort swimming in its pools and playing at the lake. I would feed a flamingo named Pancho while playing with my cousins and the children of the guests that were staying there. 
We would to to our secret place behind the lake, where my father's friends left their old airplanes.  Forgotten by them, and hidden with overgrown vegetation we would play for hours pretending to take trips to far away lands.  Innocent rehearsals of the fate that was awaiting for us.

After the triumph of the  revolution we went back to Abuela. Everything at the resort was fine.  Abuela standing outside her house waited for us. When the car stopped , I went running to her and gave her a big hug. I smelled the sweet perfume of her handkerchief and knew that everything was alright. 

“Abuela I missed you so much. Tell me everything that happened here.”

"A group of rebels commanded by Camilo stayed at the resort and he fell in love with your cousin Tere!"   Camilo Cienfuegos the one who fought the revolution dividing the island in half, making Batista leave! I could not wait to go back to school and tell my friends.    

Then things began to change and the rebels cut their hair, the rosaries around their necks went away. Camilo came back one more time to see Tere and I was thrilled to meet him.  A few weeks later he disappeared in his airplane. Then more changes continued……..

"Please take care of my children!" Now there were cries from the children inside and cries from their parents, yelling to be good, to take care.  It was as if the glass room had become a fish bowl and we were the fish swimming in it. Papi was right when he said, "The children will leave to another land without their parents like in the Peter Pan story." And I kept looking for Abuela, the one who would save me from all this madness.

Raúl Calienes                                My Father (1915-2008)

My father was born on January 9, 1915 in Central Adela, a sugar cane plantation near the city of General Carrillo, in the Province of Las Villas, Cuba.  He had two brothers, Pepe and Enrique, and five sisters Onelia, Reina, Celia, Isolina, and Olga. He was the youngest son of Don Crispin Calienes and Dona Maria. 


At a young age he showed signs of curiosity, in other words a very mischievous child. My aunts would often recall his stories and would finish saying, “It was always trouble with him, if he was home he would be conducting experiments in his room, if he was out he would be raising hell down the street in his skates.” He was the fastest and most daring skater in the entire block.

 By the time he grew up into a young man, his father Don Crispin had become a very successful landowner. So he sent my father to the University of Havana to study.  Being the playful and carefree as he always was, he chose American Football as his favorite subject. He earned many awards as an outstanding player, even coming with his team to play against American teams. 


One eventful summer while vacationing at his father's farm, he met my mother Alicia.  She was the youngest daughter of Don Arturo Berrayarza, the owner of San Jose del Lago, a very well known resort in Cuba, next to his father’s farm.  My father would come to visit and court her in his horse.  My mother would sing songs to him with her guitar.  He went back to the University and they continued the relationship by writing to each other. 

 The following year they were married in the Church of San Antonio. Her father had built this church in Mayajigua, the little town next to their resort. The ceremony took place on the day of the opening of the church, June 13, 1942. This date became a very significant day for everyone in the family and would be celebrated for the next 66 years.

A year after the marriage my older brother Raul was born. Now life became a little bit more serious and he decided to finish his college education.  His father sent them both to the United States.  He went to the University of Georgia where he earned a degree in Agricultural Engineering.  After graduating he went back to Cuba, then I, Alicia , named after my mother, arrived. 

 Anxious to put to use his college education, he acquired some virgin lands that turned them into a very productive farm. He was proud of his accomplishments, and wasted no time to show them to his father.  By then the family had become larger, I had two more brothers Jorge and Jose Antonio being the youngest.


Two years after the Castro Revolution, we all left the island and came to the United States.  Here, my father had to change his life.  He earned a teaching credential at Mount St. Mary College, in Los Angeles, California and later a masters degree in Math from the same college. He went on to teach Math at Rosemead High School for the next 25 years.


Those were essentially his accomplishments, but the greatest thing about him was the way he lived his life to the fullest.


My father loved sports and kept active by playing tennis, for more than 30 years.  He became known as the “Spin Master”, among his tennis friends.  One step to the left, and one step to the right.  He did not have to move much to hit those balls.  So, he was able to play way into his 80’s.  I remember he would come home and elaborate on how good his opponent was.  When we would ask, “Who won the game Papi?” “I did,” he would reply with a smile on his face.  When he lost, “His partner was no good.”

He had a passion for flying; he learned it in Georgia and brought it to Cuba. He would fly his small Cessna airplane, along with a group of friends who also had planes.  Their playground was the airport at the resort where his family lived. He brought his love for flying back to the United States, where once he had established himself and his family he bought an airplane.  He said it was for tax purposes, but we knew better.  He kept his plane at the El Monte Airport and he would fly it whenever he could. 


One memorable trip was the one from Los Angeles to Miami to visit family.  It was quite an adventure.  My brothers, Jose and Jorge still remember some of the mishaps of this long trip, such as landing on airports that were not for civilians and being escorted out of it by the US Army.

  I do remember going on a trip to Catalina Island with him.  He had told me that he received a special permit to land there, but forgot to tell me why.  We went and landed on top of a big mountain, That is where the airport happens to be. It was a difficult and scary landing.  Wow, I thought that was something, but there was still more excitement to come. Then we went to have something to eat at the airport café.  Before we were quite finished with our food, my father got up abruptly, and in a hurry he said, “ We have to go now!” I calmly replied, “We will”.  “No, we have to go right now, or we won’t be able to take off.”  We looked out the window and a thick fog was coming in rapidly.  We both ran, “ I’ll start the engine and you untie the plane.”  I did and had to run and jump in the plane while it was moving. I said to him, “ Why didn’t you tell me it was like that?”  He looked at me with a smile and replied, “ And ruin the thrill of it all.”  


He had a great love for the subject that he taught, Math.  Who could forget his dissertation on the Metric System for his Masters? He would often discuss the fact that the metric should have been adopted because it is so much better.  He even visited the original metric that is in Paris, France. He loved solving Math problems.  At the dinner table my mother would remind him to talk to us because he would always be involved in these conversations he had with himself, ignoring whatever was going on around him.  To think of something he would give us a logic problem to solve.  “And whoever gets the answer I will give you a dime,” he would say. That would keep us busy for a while.  He often tutor his children and grandchildren in the subject.  He would greet my son Jamie by saying, “Hey, Jamie what is the square root of 1?”  You would hear a little laughter then, “One, of course.”

He loved to eat but never overate.  Whatever you cooked for him was always, “Delicioso.”  He loved to get up in the middle of the night and served himself a plate of food.  If you ever got up to get water, he would offer the food to you as if it was a midday feast.

He always wanted to look good.  My mother always made sure of that.    When he started to lose his hair he would wear a hairpiece. That fad did not last for too, long.  Being absent-minded, as he was, the hairpiece was sometimes upside down, other times he would leave it somewhere such as the garage, and other interesting places.


He was a great dancer.  My mother and him loved to go to parties.  They were the first there and the last ones to leave. Dancing became a bit much, when he developed arthritis on his back.   My mother would stand behind holding his hips so he could dance.    We would then, make a conga line behind them, until he would yell, “No more.”

He was playful with his children and grandchildren.  He loved to tease my mother and he would always have a triumphant smile when he got the best of her.  He loved to give tongue twister for everyone to repeat. 

He spent the last months of his life in a place across the street from his beloved tennis court where he had played many times and close to the airport where he had kept his airplane.  His children would take him to the court to see his friends play.  The sounds of airplanes taking off  and flying low would bring a twinkle to his eyes. He died there in the arms of my mother, Alicia, his greatest  love of all.

 He was a husband, a father, a scholar, an athlete, a pilot, but must of all a real child at heart.  I know he’s up there with the rest of his family teasing, “bromeando.”  

So, Papi behave, please.  This is for you:

En Pinto,

Juan Ponte el quinto,

Por la pintura despunta,

Un puente de punta a punta,

Pinta  Ponte al punto,

 En Pinto
I miss you Papi,


Don Crispín Calienes
Abuelo Calienes

Soy Alicia Calienes y mi abuelo Don Crispin Calienes tenia una finca muy grande en Cuba. Ese pueblo de que escribes llamado ahora Calienes era su finca.  Durante la revolución ayudó a los rebeldes dándoles  comida. Poco después del triunfo de la revolución fue desalojado de su finca para convertirla en un cuartel y paredón de fusilamientos para los contra revolucionarios.  Muchos de los empleados que la finca tenia para el ganado, la sierra de arboles, la lechería y la casa quedaron sin trabajo.  
 Unos se alojaron en la casa cuando dejó de ser cuartel, otros hicieron chozas en el campo donde antes se jugó pelota, pues a él le gustaba que sus hijos y los trabajadores de la finca jugaran los Domingos.
Calienes era un pueblo en Asturias, de dónde los Fernández de Calienes provienen, Abuelo era Don Crispin Fernández-Calienes.  El nada más que pudo llegar hasta el tercer grado, teniendo que trabajar para ayudar a su familia por haber quedado huérfano de padre. Su inteligencia lo llevó a ser administrador de centrales de Cuba donde diseñó una máquina para levantar la caña que lleva su nombre. Adquirió tierras e inventó su propio sistema matemático para medirlas.  
Visité Calienes, este pueblo en Cuba,  en el verano del año 1999, dónde mantienen vivo como leyendas las historias de los Calienes.