In the 1920s, my two Eastern European grandfathers Avrom Lowinger and Shmuel Persechensky boarded separate boats bound for America. Within months of each other they were deposited in Havana, Cuba. Unlike many Jews who used Cuba as a jump-off point to get to the United States, both abuelos decided to remain on the largest island in the Caribbean. Avrom became Alberto and moved to Santiago de Cuba. He worked on the railroad alongside other immigrants, mostly from China, then peddled dry goods from a pushcart in the sugar cane growing regions of Camaguey province. Shmuel, who became Samuel, preferred Havana’s exuberant nightlife, so he stayed in the capital and married an immigrant named Rosa who died within weeks of giving birth to my mother. My parents grew up in Camaguey and Havana, both now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
By the time I was born, we were living in the fancy-ish Vedado section of Havana in a building that my father designed. Then in 1959, everything changed and we wound up in Miami.
My family’s generational migrations have impacted all of my work. I am a wanderer and a person who repairs things. I’ve lived in Havana, Miami Beach, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Rome, and currently divide my time between Los Angeles and Miami. I’ve conserved works of art in Haiti, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, and Hawaii, to name but a few far-flung places, and write plays, books, essays, short stories, and novels.
In 2009 I was awarded the Rome Prize in Conservation at the American Academy in Rome and studied the History of Vandalism.