Her father was a refugee, an immigrant, twice.
When Thomas Jefferson bought Louisiana from Napoleon in 1803, many French and Spanish families left the suddenly U.S. territory, to resettle in Cuba. They were joined by thousands of poor Spanish settlers fleeing the eastern end of Hispaniola. Within the year, French expatriates from the western end of the island, known as Haiti, followed, desperate to escape the massacres of a historic slave rebellion. More than thirty-three thousand French-Haitian emigres landed in the easternmost part of Cuba, known as Oriente.
Edouard D’Estrade, in his early twenties, was from a family of French farmers,
refugees from the French Revolution. A dozen years after finding safe haven on Hispaniola,
in the midst of the Haitian upheaval, Edward saw his parents slaughtered. He was able to flee
with a cadre of slaves and cash. His mission was to honor his parents and recreate La Belle Marie, his family’s Haitian coffee plantation in Cuba.
He purchased Comecara, a five-hundred-acre parcel, and began working the land soon after his arrival. Edouard faced life with the fury of the refugee. He could not forget the killing of his parents and their friends. I am a lucky bastard. I could have died along with them, and now I’ve got to make a new home in this place.
Edouard found himself alone, without friends, but he was a sociable, personable man. When one of his neighbors in the mountainous area of the Sierra Maestra invited him to a barbeque, he agreed to ride over to the event.
Mariana immediately caught his eye. She was a short, plump girl but carried herself with dignity. Her copper colored skin reflected the honeyed tone of her mother Laurita, of Taino ancestry, and her black curly hair, the racial inheritance from her father, Tomas Gonzalez, a freed slave who owned a livery business.