09/01/13 - The Gleaner (Jamaica) - Adiós - Traditional Jamaican Farewell For Cuban Ambassador
Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
Well, after four years, the tour of duty for Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Yuri Gala Lopez comes to an end in a few days.
For many who came to know and interact with him during his tenure here, Ambassador Lopez and his very charming wife, Yaima, were the quintessential diplomats - he, the dapper, urbane and articulate gentleman; she, the elegantly reserved 'First Lady' of the Cuban mission, always with a warm smile and even warmer handshake. This made them one of the most-liked couples on the diplomatic circuit.
And so it was that, when it was first announced that Ambassador Lopez was appointed to the prestigious post of dean of the diplomatic corps, many inside and outside the corps welcomed and celebrated his appointment.
Well, it was the same able charm, which saw him being appointed, that made him a favourite on the social scene and in the corridors of power. Here was a man who leads by example, always emphasising the ties that bind us all as a people in one global village instead of dwelling on our political, social and cultural differences.
He used his tenure to further cement the already strong ties between Jamaica and Cuba, especially in the areas of arts and culture.
So when it was announced that the ambassador would be returning to Cuba, many, including the Jamaica/Cuba Friendship Association, decided that it would be remiss of them not to say adios to the ambassador with a traditional Jamaican farewell.
And so it was that, on the eve of their departure, the ambassador and his family were quite busy as friends, colleagues and leading members of the Government hosted them at a number of farewell dos.
The marquee event, however, was last Sunday evening by security mogul and conglomateur, Kenny Benjamin, and his Cuban companion, the lovely Aloima Suarez, at their Stony Hill estate.
This, my dears, was the ultimate in sayonaras as it was truly the last farewell, and, as such, was restricted to a critically hand-picked shortlist of family, colleagues and friends. And it made for quite a charming do!
My dears, talk about charming! This was all that and then some. The affair began with cocktails in the oh-so-lush and flowering upper gardens of Benjamin's residence. Guests gathered and mingled freely and easily, exchanging pleasantries and anecdotal reveries, stopping occasionally to marvel or comment on one of the many rare and/or exotic plants the garden boasts while sipping on their favourite libation.
It was against this backdrop of rich fauna and foliage, with the city of Kingston shimmering in the distance and some fabulously soothing music, that guests were invited to dine.
Dinner, my dears, was a beaut - a fabulous mix of Cuban dishes; Jamaican favourites, Indian, and the continental - all adding up to a marvellous repast.
Naturally, an occasion such as this required toasts and the host and his companion led the way. And this being a bilingual crowd for the most part, there were toasts in English, Spanish and Spanglish - all adding to the charm and beauty of the occasion. But it was the response by the ambassador that can truly be dubbed a moving toast - to his hosts and the Government and people of Jamaica. This brought many to the point of reaching for their hankies, as he was that moving and emotional as he recalled his early days here on the island - lessons learnt and friendships cemented.
And so, with an ache in his heart as he leaves those friends behind, he ended with a quote by Jamaican global superstar Bob Marley - One Love!
Indeed, it was a very charming evening laced with sadness. Amid the presentation of mementoes and toasts, it was clear that, for many, the impending departure would indeed leave a void!
Among those out sharing in the occasion were: Justice Howard Cooke and his wife Heather; Indian High Commissioner Pratap Singh; Colombian Ambassador Dr Luis Guillermo Martinez-Fernandez; Honorary Consul of Iceland Robert MacMillan and the lovely Candy DePass; Professor Brian Meeks and his wife, Patsy; George Suarez and wife, Reina Castellanos; Rupert Bent and wife, Cindy Breakspeare; the elegantly charming Sonja Sutherland Dumetz; Tarun and Catherine Handa, and doyenne R. Christene King. Also there were the très elegant Karen Neita; the charming Pamela Redwood; the dapper Roger Hinds and the gorgeous Marisa Benain; the fab Annaliesa Lindsay; the fabulously lovely Stefanie Thomas and her mother, Monica Minott; the lovely Pamela Neita-Lawson; Miguel Rodriguez, and wife, Isis Suarez; Miguel Bernard and companion, Nicky Channer; Kevin Bernard and wife, Jackie Hilaire; plus a number of others.
CUBA-L FAIR USE NOTICE
This server contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of Cuba's political, economic, human rights, international, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and historical issues, among others. We distribute the materials on the basis of a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material is distributed without profit. The material should be used for information, research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.