short story    
photo of Ha Jin   Ruben Mendoza Vega

In 15241, an ancestor of my father2 named Bernardo Marín3 received a land grant4 from Hernán Cortés.5 He expanded these holdings until in the seventh generation the family controlled6 an extent of tobacco8 fields unexcelled in the New World.9 My son, with no grasp of history,10 no sense of proportion about the broad effects of tobacco,11 and a Romanticist's infatuation with the Indian,12 repudiated his heritage in an act of suicide. When Communism fails in Cuba, as it must, and Castro13 flees, our family will again take up its place on the island.14 We will once again make the finest cigars in the world. And I will resist feelings of bitterness toward a middle son15 who could not wait. His grandfather told him as I did: patience. In this neglected virtue is the story of America.16

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        Excerpted from Light Action in the Caribbean by Barry Lopez. Copyright © 2000 by Barry Lopez. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.