Fábrica de Muñecas Yoruba

Holguín, Cuba

The state-run Fábrica de Muñecas Yoruba at Carretera de Gibara #260 in Holguín is one of Cuba’s largest doll factories. I would venture the reason this factory qualifies as a special point of interest is that the city’s primary features are dust and heat and blind streets without traffic lights or stop signs. Nevertheless, with a couple of hours to kill before our bus connection, and having exhausted the mechanical-organ factory down the street, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a whirl. “They make the dolls by hand,” the caretaker at the organ place explained with trace excitement, “you can see everything.”

We hesitated outside, maybe because it looked so new and improbably glassy. Then the door flew open and a matronly woman popped out; with a volatile swirling of skirts and hands she swept us briskly in. I was busy wondering about her need for a wool sweater, scarf, shirt, and long wool skirt in hundred-degree weather when I noticed we were in the factory gift shop, where an astonishing two hundred or more dolls were engaged in staring at us. Dozens of prim white faces gazed out with shining black eyes and pert red mouths, while carmine and ebony lace-edged tulle spilled in rich lava flows over six large shelves.

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—Monica Ferrell

Monica Ferrell is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, the Boston Review, and elsewhere.

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