José Guillermo González (Guille) and Marie Antoinette Espinosa (Mery) have promoted since 1995 an ornamental plants patio that boasts the category of Excellence, awarded by the National Urban Agriculture Group. They have one of the most comprehensive collections of orchids in the country with 160 varieties.
Despite having a flower´s name Margarita didn’t like gardens. When she went to live in the town of the Violeta sugar mill, she chose the house that had no patio because, although she didn’t work outside she did not want to spend the day raking and picking up leaves.
The property had belonged to Julio Farinas, chief of machinery at the mill, and then passed to the family of Mery, back in 1958, when his father accepted a position at the sugar factory. Since then she has not left, nor will she.
At the old house Balloon Frame style, as in the southern United States, they cemented all around in to prevent red mud stain it all, hopelessly, during the rainy season. That´s why Mery thinks the decision to promote a garden is a sort of sacrilege and perhaps, too, so it was not until after a long time that made their home in paradise. However, she likes to think, her mother Margarita, in the end, would have succumbed to the beauty.
Guille’s story begins elsewhere, but in 1958 crossed with Mery´s. He says it could not have been otherwise, since he saw her he knew that this was the woman of his life. However, he went to teach literacy, he studied economics, worked in Havana, became chief auditor of the National Bank of Cuba, but returned to Violeta. He returned because neither the tall buildings, nor the sea made him forget the smell of crushed cane flooding the town when the mill is working, and that Mery was waiting, sitting in the doorway, fanning the air against warmth and nostalgia.
Also because in this area he fished the largest trout he had ever seen and the fishing was always one of his great passions. Guille shows photos of his records, huge fish, like 13 pounds, caught by nylon in La Redonda or Florida. And although he maybe can still do it, there are not trout there now.
He had to switch that passion to another, which has lasted longer. If you lack of fish, then flowers. Since 1980, Mery and Guille have turned their yard into a garden like few others. They say it all started with two trees and in the nineties the yard grew with fruit that somehow cushioned scarcity. However, once the worst happened, they preferred ornamentals because not only the body needs food.
Guille knows by heart the names of all the flowers, but not to abuse his memory he numbers those that look alike. Between 160 orchid and 20 fern varieties anyone would lose its marbles. But he uses his years as an accountant and with the patience of those who keep filling statistical models and balances he goes one by one removing withered leaves and weeds.
“There is always something to do”, he says smiling while telling me they get up very early. Mery prepares breakfast and then sweeps the patio. He stays at home doing grafts and watering, as she is going out to run errands.
“If you take the yard away from him, he dies in three days,” Mery whispers when Guille walks outside to cut orchids for a gift. She, however, prefers violets. Both the town, the flowers, the house would have gotten in as great love and not because her daughter and grandson beg her to go and visit they get away from the garden.
They do not like to think too much about it, but worry that when they are gone, no one takes care of the yard and miss that so much effort and dedication they have achieved. It is the only moment when they smile fades. Then Guille, swiftly, looks for several albums and begins to tell the story of the bird of paradise as if it were his own life. And this orchid only blooms in January and it looks like a spider, and is a dancer, and…
Eyes are barely enough to see. There the time, it seems, doesn’t create havoc. Everything is equal, or nearly equal. On one of the walls of the old wooden house, however, betrays a photo the years have passed and also reveals one of the secrets of this marriage to be happy. The secret is not in the flower, I say. The secret is to smile.