What a name! It means “flounder,” as in the fish, in Romanian. It’s the name of a place in Angola. There is the Pizzeria Cambula in Italy. But Aunt Cambula has nothing to do with any of these. Her name was Inez Martínez and Cambula was her nickname. Why she was named Cambula is lost to history. We have no photos of her. In the Maryland Prats Clan generation numbering, she is in Generation Minus One.
|Francisca Martinez Seijas (1875–1964)|
She was known as “Panchita” and read two
newspapers cover-to-cover every day, the local
paper El Camagueyano and the Shipping News
Generation One called her “Patita.”
Cambula married into wealth in Havana, and widowed early. She had no children. After the appropriate period of mourning, she went on a no-expenses-barred European Tour accompanied by her younger brother, most likely in the 1920s or early 1930s. On the return voyage her brother dies at sea and she buried him at the ship’s first port of call. His death was unexpected and not foul play, by everyone’s account. But perhaps he was ill and the reason for the trip to Europe was to “take the waters” for a cure to whatever was ailing him. Or maybe it was just an undiagnosed condition. The reported facts are that he took ill and died aboard ship and that she buried him on arrival in New Orleans.
|One of the Pontalba Buildings at Jackson Square New Orleans|
2004 photograph by Jan Kronsell via Wikipedia Commons
|An interior view of a Pontalba apartment|
|French Bisque Doll|
|Bisque doll in its case|
|Daughters of Charity Sisters|
at Charity Hospital, New Orleans
An International Telegram
Hers would have looked similar and delivered by a
bicycle courier minutes after it was sent. The courier,
holding his hand out for a tip, would have said, “shall
I wait for your reply?”
Panchita was of course very sad to hear that her cousin Cambula had died. But at the same time she was thrilled that she had inherited something, something from her rich relation. Francisca had no money of her own. Never married and now in her seventies (she would live to 89), she had always lived with family who attended to her every need. For money she had a small stipend from Ventura and his Brother Antonio for pin money — and here was a telegram saying that she had inherited something from her rich cousin. This certainly was special!
So Panchita borrowed some luggage, traveled to Havana for a passport, visited the U.S. Embassy for a visa, sent a telegram to the lawyer announcing her arrival, and flew to New Orleans to claim her inheritance.
|A Steamer Trunk Full of Clothes|
The clothes in the trunk proved useful. Mariana and Panchita’s other grand nieces and their friends would borrow Aunt Cambula’s clothes for costume parties.