I always wrote poetry but there was nowhere here in Miami where I could share my poems. You would go crazy looking for a group or something. Nothing. Cultural? Back then in the ’90s? No.

So one day I heard about this book fair. There was a group that came from Palm Beach. It would come every three months to the Miami Dade College on 27th Avenue, and I signed up. I started going there and thought, “Wow! This is great!”

Somehow, when it comes to narrative, editorial or short stories, I never know what language is going to come out. Sometimes I start writing and it comes out in English, then I have to do the translation to Spanish or vise versa. With the poetry, 99.9 percent of the time it comes out in Spanish. I feel in Spanish. It’s weird because it’s like I think in English and I feel in Spanish, and that’s us, Hispanics.

I was very active in that group and immediately it got me onto the board. I tripled membership because all the Hispanics were arriving. It was mainly Cubans but then I had a few from Nicaragua and other places. Not as many as there are now. There’s so many Venezuelans and Colombians; there weren’t that many back then.

I noticed that the group was just poetry and that there were people who would paint and would act. They were so interested in other things and they were so frustrated. The book fair was only every three months, as well.

Eventually, I left and I started to think about opening something that would embrace all nationalities and could be bilingual. We have a lot of Hispanics here who write better in English but there are also people like me who go to Spanish first.

The idea was to have a bilingual, international and nonprofit group. I would call it The Cove/Rincón. I went to our lawyer and we set it up together. By August 1995, all the paperwork was done. I opened it to the public on Oct. 20, 1995, at Florida International University.

The classroom where we held our first meeting was full. Believe it or not, we still meet at the same place that we met 18 years ago. The department of Latin American and Caribbean Center at FIU has been our blessing and it is our home. My hat is off to the center, and I will always be thankful.

We have chapters all over Latin America and across the world. There are delegates from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Mexico. We’ve even expanded to Europe and Japan.

Our motto is: “Do not let nationality, race, sex or age make a difference: let us be one.” I used to add “in the arts” at the end but I cut that. I think we need to spread it further than that. At the same time, I also say, “and let the bohemian loose” because nobody can be boxed in when you have a creative spirit. It will drive you crazy.

My journey toward The Cove/Rincón began when I came to Miami on July 16, 1961. My dad used to travel here for business a lot. He had his own business in Cuba, and he knew what was going to happen there so he came ahead. After two years, he got us out as well. I was starting seventh grade at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School.

We moved to an apartment on Southwest Fifth Avenue and Third Street, a half block from the Miami River. I remember Hurricane Cleo and the river overflowed. It came into our apartment and I was sweeping fish for a week after the water went down.

For the first year, I’d come from school and go to the backyard. There was a guava tree that I would lean against and cry day after day. I was prepared to go back to Cuba. I do thank God to this day that my parents had the vision to get us out. But we were separated from the rest of our very large family.

I guess all those things influence you to do things in your life to help people: to unite countries and to unite people. That’s what The Cove/Rincón is all about. I have friends from everywhere.

After Sts. Peter and Paul, I attended Immaculata-La Salle High School. In high school, my Hispanic friends and I, we had each other. We didn’t go home and tell our parents how we felt about wanting to go back to our homelands. We knew that would make their situation more difficult. Instead, we would go to each other and talk about it.

After I married my husband Frank, my daughter Frances arrived nine months later. She was a honeymoon baby. Then came my son Alexis. I began Miami Dade College around the time that my kids started school. I studied psychology and children’s literature.

Once they were in college and they had their own cars, that’s when I was able to do more and start The Cove/Rincón.

Besides writing, I have a love for horseback riding. Throughout my life, we owned horses. My kids both ride great. We would come horseback riding from where Dolphin Mall is now. That used to be a 420-acre ranch where we would keep our horses. We would come riding from there to my current house on Southwest 132nd Avenue and Bird Road and have a barbecue.

I love where I live. I saw Miami change from a town to a city, a magic city that we’re blessed to live in. I’m thankful for this country that has opened its arms and given us the freedom that we were looking for.

This story was compiled by HistoryMiami intern Lisann Ramos as recounted by Marily Reyes.