by Celi Framil Figueredo
It took my family a one-hour Havana-to-Miami flight and then a 30-minute, two-car caravan drive to arrive in Key Biscayne on the morning of December 19, 1960. I was 11 years old and my siblings included Mandy, Ana and Maru, ages 5 to 12.
Key Biscayne was the perfect refuge for our family to ride out the political turmoil caused by Castro’s communist regime in Cuba as it slowly began to dismantle many institutions and confiscate private businesses on the island nation. My grandfather Francisco Framil, a native of Spain from the Galician region, was the patriarch and head of the family business, a well-established wholesale food distributorship dating from the late 1800s that served the many food stores throughout Cuba. In his 70s and still working, “Abuelo Pancho,” as he was known by all his grandkids, had to endure the confiscation of everything he had worked for all his life. The tranquil, small-town atmosphere of Key Biscayne provided a safe haven for him and the entire family to ride out the storm for what they thought would be a “six-month stay,” and for us kids to roam around freely.
One of my earliest recollections of Key Biscayne is celebrating Christmas five days after our arrival with our extended Framil-Hoyo cousins, uncle, aunt and my grandparents, who had all come to the Key a few months earlier. I vividly remember the older kids having received new bikes. Mine was a beautiful metallic-blue Schwinn bike! Little did we know those bikes would become one of our most precious companions throughout our early years on the Key. In January, we started pedaling away to the Key Biscayne Elementary School to resume school, with new notebooks and pencils inside the baskets!
Above Photo: Cristina Figueredo Zizold, Alejandro Zizold, Alexandra Figueredo, Celi Framil Figueredo, Fernando Figueredo, Jack Solano Figueredo, Annette Figueredo
Front: Victoria Zizold Figueredo | Key Biscayne, 2019
My parents initially rented a 3/1 Mackle, and although a bit crowded, we kids adapted quickly! Our childhood innocence shielded us from the uncertainties and difficulties our parents were facing, and we were able to enjoy a summer lifestyle similar to the one we had left behind…clear blue waters, laid-back white sandy beaches and constant sunlight that provided a special energy that’s hard to describe. Key Biscayne had become our new backyard playground year-round! Incredibly, several of my parents’ friends from Cuba also made their way to the Key in those first few years, and that provided everyone a way to share each other’s stories and overcome insecurities from what we left behind in our beautiful homeland.
Abuelo Framil, 1950’s
Patriarch of the Framil family
Although Key Biscayne was still a young community in 1960, it was already well established and family oriented, with very friendly residents. It was composed of World War II veterans, small business owners, and professionals who brought with them their spirited Yankee ingenuity, family values and hard-working ethics. Over the years, I realized these traits formed the roots that became the true soul of our Island Paradise. They befriended us with open arms and helped us navigate through the language and cultural barriers. We were also greeted by Father Navarrete, a Spaniard and then Pastor at St. Agnes Church, who offered much needed guidance.
Immediately upon our arrival, Dr. Handwerker, the island’s family doctor, became our doctor and provided us the medical reports needed for school enrollment. Another island patriarch, Mr. Vernon, not only became our pharmacist, his pharmacy provided many of our needs. His popular foundry-bar served the best hot chocolate sundaes in the Americas! Other small stores now extinct at The Shopping Center included Bristol’s, The Hardware Store, The Key Bootery, The Whelk, Burns’ men’s store and “The 5 & 10,” the Key’s mini-Woolworth where we could find anything without having to leave the island.
La Habana, 1958
My favorite store was Scott’s Village, a popular ladies’ clothing store. My mother, Celina, was able to start work at Scott’s early on to supplement the income of my father Armando. She then stayed working there for over 30 years. Scott was a wonderful person and was joined by her two daughters, Scotty and Linda. My mom was quickly absorbed as one of their family members, which meant the entire Framil clan was treated as family. I still remember the wonderful times we had when every time we walked in, one of them would quickly show us a new piece for us to try on. And yes, everyone would come over to give their “opinion,” and we always felt we were being treated very special by them.
Since the early ‘60s our Framil clan spent a lot of time between the Yacht Club and the Beach Club. The Beach Club holds a special place in my heart since later on after my marriage to Fernando, “a wonderful, extremely handsome, super-intelligent and amazing husband,” we also settled on the Key and would take our three daughters to the beach almost every day during summers. Today, we enjoy taking the new generation, our granddaughter and grandson, to the Beach Club.
Our teenage years on the Key in the mid ‘60s were the best ever! By that time, we had a full network of friends and parents who had known us since childhood. This very close-knit network allowed our parents to trust us to move freely, have parties and grow into adulthood with a tremendous sense of security and self-confidence. It was during those teenage years that I personally began to really understand the many difficulties and insecurities my parents were going through. We would have to endure financial difficulties, but somehow we were able to overcome. Amazingly, our parents and extended family persisted in keeping everyone together, helping each other and keeping a positive outlook on life, which allowed our lives to move forward. I think those teenage years growing up on the Key provided me a good foundation to spring out and explore the Miami mainland and beyond!
Shortly after college, I married Fernando. In 1975 we purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom Mackle and settled there to begin a new lifecycle with our very own family on the Key. My siblings also ended up going to college, marrying and settling in Miami, and for many years Key Biscayne continued to be the gathering place for all major holidays like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. My grandparents and parents remained living long lives on the Key until they passed away, and they actively shared in our zillions of family celebrations over the years. After 35 years of living in our renovated family home and our daughters moving away, we decided to downsize and also remained on the Key.
Throughout the many storms, Key Biscayne has sheltered five generations of the Framil family and forged each generation with innumerable memories. I’m sure each has their own story to tell. For me, Key Biscayne has been an endearing place… an ideal refuge… and the only place I have called HOME for the last 60 years!
Key Biscayne, 1989
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