Love and Protect, Talk and Protect

Illustration: Mary Esther Lemus

By Mauricio Mendoza (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – Karina was the first person who showed me Legna’s work back in mid-2017. She told me about a poem, from which I remember the image of a curious girl who pulls on a thread coming out of a vagina with her mouth until a tampon comes out that stains her face with menstrual blood. Legna manages to put in a couple of verses what would take a million sentences for me to describe. Remembering the image from that poem six years ago, I think it’s amazing.

I only know Legna from what she posts on social media, her columns for different independent Cuban outlets where she writes her truth, where she vents and survives to pay another month of rent. Legna who first migrated from Camaguey to Havana and then arrived in Miami one day. Carrying a duffel bag full of books without knowing much about Miami or the US, like most of us arrive. Years later, she talks about her migrant adventures with the poetry that Miami lacks, and she reads children’s stories to her son that came with her from Cuba. 

I don’t know Legna in person, that’s why I say I imagine her, although we have spoken on WhatsApp and this interview came about. A group of Cuban emigres is captured in her work. The bohemians, the dreamers, the ones that aren’t “normal” and they had to leave to build a new nest in other trees. 

How does a writer raise her son in Miami, the city where breaking your back to work to pay the bills takes up your reading time? That’s been the question that’s intrigued me the most. No matter what, money is important, and you can’t pay at supermarkets with pages from a novel, but with the sales of a novel, with the articles that sometimes newspapers take their time to pay out, with an extra that appears at the last minute as a lifesaver. Maybe the strength to overcome obstacles comes from her Sagittarian fire, that puts art and a McDonald’s kitchen on two extremes of the scale. Just like her, many generations of artists and writers have left Cuba to be reborn in other places. Some manage to keep their creation alive after the daze. Others create while working a part-time job at a bar, but the most ill-fated stop pursuing their talents. 

Every now and again, Legna and Cemi appear on social media, and they appear like mother and son sometimes, but other times they just look like two happy children. The little one’s smile in each photo is proof that you can be a mother, migrant and writer.

Photo: Zaidenwerg.

However, this time, I’m not talking to the writer – who describes herself as a person who “writes more than she speaks”, but with the migrant mother who is taking a chance on keeping her creative streak alive.

How did motherhood come into your life?

KARINA: Having a child was my specific plan ever since I went to live in Havana alone. I tried with my friend Rogelio Orizondo in 2015, but I wasn’t ovulating and it didn’t work. Otherwise there’d be a little 8-year-old Orizondo in Miami. 

Legna, it must be normal for you to know that journalists work with gossip because it gives us an idea. Cuba is a great source of these ideas. I’ve heard your son was born from an agreement with a friend, but I never looked into it. I’ll ask you about it, as it seems like an interesting story, from a journalistic and personal point of view, if you don’t mind telling it of course.

I’ve spoken about this in many of my columns. I wrote a boo

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