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A Taste of My Life: Texts and Poems

By Carlota Caulfield



I approached Edward Henry's life with love and fascination. The enigmatic figure of my eccentric abuelito irlandés would emerge in letters sent to him by Philip August Crozier, his British lawyer. If Edward Henry were alive today would he have sung to me his adventures with his English woven on a Gaelic loom, with his adopted French (he was an ardent francophile) or with his beautiful Spanish? He was a master in the art of conversation (what a pity that I did not inherit it) and he possessed a genius for satire; he was an expert in 'slagging', a very Irish thing that means telling stories in a cruelly amusing way. 

How to get to the Centre of Things?

Wearing good walking shoes, I began searching for the sounds of my grandparents. I found my way into the archives of the Church of 'Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje' of the City, Province and Diocese of Havana:

On the fourth day of November, all proper requirements have been complied with. The three canonical admonitions were published in the Church and at the Sacrarium of the Cathedral of the City; the bride has obtained her parents' counsel and Sacrament of Penance was previously received. I, D. Pablo Tomas Noya, Presbyter, Parish Priest in charge of this Church, did attend at the marriage which, personally and as ordered by The Holy Church, was contracted by Don Eduardo Enrique Caulfield aged forty-one years, unmarried, merchant, native of Gibraltar and residing at number fifty San Ignacio street, a legitimate son of Don Ricardo Miguel Caulfield, native of Dublin and Doña Antonia de Pons, native of Mahon, Menorca, the Balearic Islands, and Doña Mercé Carlota Jover, aged eighteen years, housekeeper, unmarried, native of Barcelona and a resident of number seventy six Amargura street, etc. (Book 11 of Marriages of white persons, page 71, serial number 102).

Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje, Havana

After they married, my grandparents were at the centre of many fascinating things. I found myself at 'el centro', their tertulias - their literary and musical gatherings. Their house at Calle Mercaderes, and later on Calle Amargura in Old Havana, became a cultural ghetto where the traffic of foreigners created a new inspired geography. They travelled anywhere. My grandmother Mercé (Nena) Jover played the piano and read poems (she liked Bécquer and Folguera) while Edward Henry Caulfield de Pons, besides playing the fiddle and the violin, behaved like an avant-garde composer, moving around pieces of furniture in order to make the salón more musical.

Let's drink a glass of red wine, Irish beer or Cuban mojito with my ancestors and their friends! Evenings of music and storytelling bring full days to a pleasing conclusion. Let's open up memory once more and jump out her window.

Còr que vols? / Sweet Heart, what do you want?

My grandmother Mercé had beautiful white hair and very curious eyes. She was a good talker and loved recounting anecdotes about her life with my grandfather. Blasa, my nanny, told me that she had a nice soprano voice and loved traditional Catalan lullabies. She was an overpowering, demanding and intelligent woman who rebuilt her family's fortune when my Irish grandfather died, leaving his family almost in penury. Her good luck and strong spirit kept her alive and well. Maybe we can talk here of the luck of the Catalans and not the Irish?

An Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination: My Father

Francis-Francisco: handsome, witty, quiet, generous. He loved New York, had few but loyal friends, knew many people, never played a musical instrument, and my dear daughter: - Never forget you are Irish.

They say that clouds are pure secrets

Of children

And that playing hopscotch, hide-and-seek,

'The Queen,' and 'My house's patio,'

Are bygone things.


When I was a child

I liked to play with the sky,

To walk looking upwards,

To spin around until I fell down,

To discover those marvellous clouds

Looking like old men's heads

Curled-up snakes, long noses,

Top hats, sleeping foxes, giant shoes.


And it was so good to play

'You see, I see, I see, ... I see.'

To speak of the snail which leaves for the sun.

And what pleased me most was the song about

Señora Santana which my mother sang

When she sheltered me.


They said that clouds

Are pure secrets of children.


When I walked hand-in-hand with my father

Through the streets of Old Havana,

The little Chinese restaurants

Showed their red-and-white checked tablecloths

And the oyster-stands looked at each other

From opposite corners.


To go to the Casa Belga for books

Was a daily trip.

That passion of mine for pencil-cases,

Coloured crayons, and erasers

Crowded into small wooden boxes.


They said that clouds

Are pure secrets of children.


And I remember the blue bicycle

With rabbits' tails

And the never-used roller skates

And the enormous brown piano

And the Pinocchio my aunt Charlotte

Kept in a narrow wardrobe

And 'Ring-Around-The-Rosy'

With bread and cinnamon.


When I was a little girl

I liked bald dolls and stuffed clowns.


They said that clouds

Are pure secrets of children...


[1] The author is a Havana-born poet of Irish descent, based in Oakland, California. She is the author of nine books of poems, including 34th Street and other poems, A las puertas del papel con amoroso fuego / At the Gates of the Paper with Burning Desire, The Book of Giulio Camillo. A Model for a Theater of Memory, Quincunce/Quincunx and Ticket to Ride. Essays and Poems. An anthology of her poems A Mapmaker's Diary is forthcoming from White Pine Press this autumn. Carlota Caulfield teaches Spanish and Spanish-American Studies at Mills College, Oakland, California.

[2] Haggadah. The Sephardic Jews refer to the first night of the Passover celebration as the haggadah, which means 'the telling'. The Passover is one of the Ancient Spring Festivals. It provides Jewish families with a time to recall the Exodus from Egypt.


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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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