La Cortada is the story of Cuban American scholar Ruth Behar’s immigration from Cuba to America. She was almost 5 when her family immigrated, but unlike other family and friends who immigrated around the same age, she had no memories of her life in Cuba. Because of this her family called her La Cortada, referring to one who has been cut off, lost their speech, their memories. Behar had become painfully shy and continued to be so even as she became a college professor. In search of her early childhood memories, and perhaps a key to the laughing little girl her family remembered in Cuba, Behar traveled to Cuba to get to know the family left behind, including a woman, Caro, who cared for her as a little girl. Behar’s mother had told her Cuba was so safe when she was a child, that she would let her ride alone in a taxi to visit her aunts. When Ruth said she couldn’t remember the taxi or anything from that time, Caro told her she had come home from a visit to her aunts and told Caro that the man had pinched her thighs the whole way home and refused to get back in a taxi again. Ruth never told anyone else what happened, and she realized it was at that time that her memory cut off. She lost her happy memories and her laughter, but also her fear and her sadness at what happened.
First published in 1997 story was published in Cuba by Ediciones Vigia in 2004, a cooperative of Cuban artists that create handmade books in editions of 200, using mostly recycled materials. This edition is designed by artist Rolando Estévez in English and Spanish, and includes a puzzle image of La Cortada in a back pocket that, like Behar's memories, can be pieced back together.