How Cuba Dies

My Grandfather’s Memory Is Fading, and So Is My Family Connection to the Island

When I was 23, I strapped a backpack on my shoulders and took off for Europe. It was exactly the kind of backpacking trip you think of a 23-year-old taking, except my traveling companion wasn’t a boyfriend or my college cohorts. It was my jovial, lively, 80-year-old grandfather.

And it was something of a homecoming. My grandfather was born in Spain in 1923 and escaped Franco’s regime by crossing the Pyrenees on foot with his brother in his early teens. Finding himself in Paris in the middle of World War II, …