What Pegman Saw: Exile

shoreline in cuba

La Bajada, Cuba | Eleonora Vendetta, Google Maps


“I have a map, I’ll show it to you.”

While Mama ran to Father’s study, the girls eyed one another. It was Raquelin who spoke. “What will we do without them?”

Ana pressed her lips tight. With Father facing decades in prison, and Mama going into hiding, it was the only way. To keep the family together, they must first be wrenched apart.

She did not want to live somewhere else. She wanted to swim in the ocean, to feel the sea breeze. Cuba was her heart—its ocean, her soul. It was the first thing she saw when she flung open her shutters in the morning, and the last thing she heard at night.

When mama brought the map, Ana traced a finger around the shape of this ‘Iowa.’ There was no ocean there. There was no sea within a thousand kilometers.

How was a girl to live?

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

Inspired by the story of Cuban-born artist Ana Mendietawho was sent to live an an Iowa orphanage at age 12, following her father’s involvement in the Bay of Pigs.

Related image Mendieta said: “My exploration through my art of the relationship between myself and nature has been a clear result of my having been torn from my homeland during my adolescence. The making of my silueta in nature keeps (make) the transition between my homeland and my new home. It is a way of reclaiming my roots and becoming one with nature. Although the culture in which I live is part of me, my roots and cultural identity are a result of my Cuban heritage.



  1. You give us plenty to think upon. So much history tied up with this island group.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure! Cuba fascinates me. I would love to visit sometime. Looking forward to your Monday take on the prompt 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you might like it. 🙂


  2. Stunning story. Cuba’s history is full of stories of prison, torture, mass slaughter, exile. But it is also full of stories of triumph and redemption in the face of impossible odds. This is one of those. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are most kind! Thanks for reading. Cuba is fascinating, to be sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. peterkirsch


    While I can certainly identify with feelings of alienation from society and the tendencies of its people, I have never experienced the cultural and historical detachment and solitude that accompanies refugees and others who are torn from their native environments.

    Yes, I often feel like an outsider, bewildered and unsettled with a sense of UN-belonging. But at a minimum I have the same origins and frame of reference as other midwesterners.
    To be completely removed from the culture and peoples which sculpted your most formative years…I can only imagine, and ineptly at that.

    Reminds me of a book by an old friend of mine, a Palestinian-born woman who was raised in Iowa City. “Even my Voice is Silence” by Soha Al-Jurf speaks to this same sense of longing for connection to a now oppressed culture.

    I really like this one, Karen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind and thought provoking comment. The Al-Jurf book looks excellent. It is a very hard loss to imagine, but you characterize it beautifully.


  4. Gripping story, Karen. I can really feel how terrifying and bewildering it would be to be wrenched away from not only your parents and friends and home, but everything else you’re familiar with, and sent off to a completely foreign place where you have to learn everything from scratch all over again. And Iowa, of all places — how different could you get?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? It couldn’t be much more different than if she’d landed on a different planet. Even worse, she was shuffled around to different foster homes during the time. The only constant was her sister. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a tumultuous childhood, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I’m glad the sisters were able to stick together.


  5. A great, gripping story! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words! Great to see you on Pegman.


  6. nice connection with the artist and her sad story –
    and at first I was wondering if you were going to Idaho where Hemingway met his sad demise.
    But then I was like – no – it is Iowa – so let’s keep reading.
    and loved this part: Ana traced a finger around the shape of this ‘Iowa.’ There was no ocean there.
    sure is no ocean -but could feel her angst as she looked at the map


  7. Her feeling of dislocation must have been immense – you capture her dread well. How frightened and destabilised she must have felt and even though that was later intertwined with her art, I’m sure she would have rather had a stable childhood. Well done on a heartfelt piece, Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Lynn. You make me wonder what she might have done if she had stayed. Food for thought for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Who knows which way our lives would have gone had our paths led us in different ways, though I suspect she might have come to art anyway, even if the route was a different one. My pleasure as always

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The despairing tone of this matches her dread well, Karen. A powerful piece of prose. I do not think I could ever live without being in touching distance or seeing distance of water, preferably the sea. I can empathise with your character wholeheartedly.


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