In the early 90’s I traveled to Venezuela to meet the grandmother I never knew; the one left behind when my grandfather, with his new wife, took the children and left the country.
My mother’s cousin, Verna, accompanied me by bus from Caracas to the city below the hills where my grandmother lived. I would never have found it on my own. When we arrived in the crowded central plaza, I sheltered under a dingy shop awning and waited while Verna called someone to meet us. I watched as shoppers meandered between vendors and kiosks that lined the square. Others lingered in open air restaurants and bakeries. Bus horns and hawker’s shouts rang out over the unceasing din of voices from the constant stream of people flowing past.
In the middle of all of this, a skinny, short haired woman caught my eye. She laughed while walking with her friend, gesturing her long, bony arms. My eyes followed as they passed and disappeared into the crowd.
After a short while, my mother’s cousin returned with a woman who cried out and hugged me, just as we were introduced. I was bewildered. It was the same skinny woman I had noticed earlier. It took a moment to understand: this woman was my mother’s half sister. She was my Aunt!
Years later, I sat in my grandmother’s living room with this same aunt, my Tia Dalia, talking with one of my cousins. He was the product of my uncle’s extra-marital affair and hadn’t grown up with our side of the family. We were meeting for the first time.
“You know, I saw you once before,” he said to me in Spanish. “I was on a bus and saw you walking by.”
“I picked Tia Dalia out of a crowd the first time I saw her,” I replied.
Always excitable, our aunt bounced up in her seat, then leaned toward us. Her face brightened with what she was about to say…
“Es que la sangre llama!” she said. ‘It’s because blood calls to us!’…