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A Taste of My Life
Texts and Poems

By Carlota Caulfield [1]



How many Cubans are there of Irish ancestry?
From Ticket to Ride (some ways to play my tunes)

In the forties my father moved to New York in search of his destiny. There he learned to make brilliantine in blue, red and golden colours - to give a beautiful sheen to the hair. In his free time, when he could break free from his alchemistic captivity, he would go to listen to Cuban music at the Park Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Those were happy times, and years later became a topic of conversation with me, always so curious about foreign lands and convinced early on that my father inhabited a magical world.

Arturo 'Chico' O'Farrill 
(The Jazz House)

A few days ago, while listening to a CD of 'Cuban Blues' by Chico O’Farrill, I remembered that in the New York of those stories of the mid-forties, Chico and my father had met at one of the Siboney Orchestra’s concerts at the Club Cuba in Manhattan, and saw each other again in Havana in the mid-fifties. The jam sessions on the terrace of Chico’s house on D Street in Vedado, our neighbourhood, became so famous that even my father, not particularly fond of Afro-Cuban jazz, couldn’t resist dropping in once in a while to that much-talked-about terrace. I listen to the 'Rhumba Abierta' of Chico’s 'Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite,' and then I imagine Chico back in New York, doing arrangements for Count Basie and Ringo Starr, and I see myself turning into a Beatles fan during my teenage years in Havana.

Haggadah [2]

Hasta los nombres
tienen su exilio

(Even names / have their exile)

José Isaacson, Cuaderno Spinoza.

A polytonal history: Taking an Irish canoe currach to cross the sea

Some years ago, I opened my archives - the real ones and those woven through the recollections of others and my own imagination. Documents and fog bridges fell out. Once more I began drawing the space of my cartographies with their psychological, political and cultural effects: I found myself playing hopscotch on a map where my name was written in different sounds.

After a risky journey of anamnesis (or my effort of remembering), the pieces of the family's collage appeared, building a road that begins and ends nowhere and everywhere.

'In principio erat verbum' said Saint John in Latin and Moisés de León added in Aramaic 'millin de-hidah' and the words riddled with allegory. Not far away by Biblical and Cabalistic standards, in the city of Dublin, Ireland, a warrior-poet by the name of Milesius Ó Cathamhoil told his people that according to an Irish legend (created by him?), the prophet Jeremiah and his disciple Baruch visited Ireland around 580 BC; others connect the Irish with the Ten Lost Tribes. (Was my great-great grandfather reading The Annals of Inisfallen?).

Let's go ask the spirit of King Toirdelbach of Munster sitting on his throne in 1079 and speaking with five Jews visiting Ireland (from where?).

Book of Kells, Folio 292r, Incipit to John. 
In principio erat verbum

While they wanted to secure the admission of their families to the Emerald Isle, the King was humming a big 'No'. But Milesius politely replied, 'Yes, come, my beloved children'. And in 1232 a fellow known as Peter de Rivall received a grant for the 'custody of the King's Judaism in Ireland'. The rest is the history of my father's ancestors (by now documented by Solicitors, Clerks, and Mythmakers).

The Irish Encyclopaedia tells me that the few Jews who went to the island were merchants and financiers. Some refugees from Spain and Portugal settled in Ireland at the close of the fifteenth century. Many of them were expelled, but fortunately they returned in 1655, in the time of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth (difficult times for the Irish). And the city of Dublin became a 'centro storico': the Liffey, 7 Eccles Street, Duke Street, Fenian Street and O'Connell Street seen by Leopold Bloom from the top of Nelson’s Pillar and the Cityful passing away, other cityful coming, passing away too: other coming on, passing on. Houses, lines of houses, streets, miles of pavements, piledup bricks, stones. No one is anything.

'The sea, oh the sea, is a grádh geal mo chroí,' bright love of my heart

The autumn solitude of the sea day,

Where from the deep ' mid-channel, less and less

You hear along the pale east afternoon

A sound, uncertain as the silence, swoon-

The tide's sad voice ebbing toward loneliness...


Thomas Caulfield Irwin


My great-grandfather Richard Michael was an Irish merchant and trader who had some commercial success. It is true that he was not as popular as Richard Hennessy, a Cork emigrant, who founded the famous Cognac firm. He was from Dublin and he developed the habit of living for travelling.

According to Caulfield trivia, this merchant soldier went to Spain on a mission from the British Army (things get a little confusing here). He fell in love with the Catalans, in particular with Doña Antonia María Rebeca de Pons y Tudurí, native of Mahon, Menorca, Balearic Islands. She was the only daughter of Emanuel Pons y Fuster, a Merchant, and Carlota Moynihan from Palma de Mallorca. Emanuel came from a family of conversos, called chuetas in the Balearic Islands and I don't know more. Carlota was the daughter of another Irish merchant and a Catalan woman and I am at this point entering the 'inconnu'.

The name Caulfield, originally Ó Cathamhoil, occurred in many Irish historical references, but from time to time the surname was spelt Caulfeild, Caulkin, Calkins, Cawfield, Cawfeild, Cawfield. It was not uncommon to find a person's name spelt several different ways during his or her lifetime, firstly when he or she was baptised, another when that person was married, and yet another appearing on the death certificate. (Please, let's add to these changes the ones that the spelling of my name suffered in Cuba. I had many identification cards with names like Coffee, Caultfeld, Caulfieldi, and Garfield. Did the bureaucrats at the ID office know that I love cats?).

Notable amongst my family were King Conn of the Hundred Battles, a warrior who died in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, Thomas Caulfield Irwin, poet, Amach Caulfield, architect and one of the first defenders of animal rights, and my grandfather Edward Henry Caulfield de Pons, lawyer, merchant and traveller. In the New World, my ancestors played an important part in building nations, railroads, bridges, and writing business letters.

Gibraltar, London, Paris, Havana: My Grandfather

Born in Gibraltar, my grandfather Edward Henry grew up in London, studied law and travelled the world. He left me an exquisitely written document about himself. It is one of my family treasures. Dated in London and signed by Sir William Anderson Rose Knight Locum Tenens, Lord Mayor of the City of London, part of it reads: ' whomsoever it may concern - Be it hereby notified that Edward Henry Caulfield, Esquire, who has resided in Paris for upwards of 14 years, whose present private and business address is No. 10 Avenue de Messine, in the same City, and who is Secretary of his Excellency the Conde de Fernandina (Grandee of Spain) has added to his said name that of de Pons, and will henceforward be known only by the name of Edward Henry Caulfield de Pons.'

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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 11 November 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

Caulfield, Carlota, 'A Taste of My Life: Texts and Poems' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 5:3 (November 2007), pp. 231.234. Available online (, accessed .


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