A TV assignment, two books, a life-long love affair and five kids
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I absolutely cannot wait for you to read this post.
I mean, I could gush about Linda Hurtado Bond, and her skills, and her exploits, and her passion, and her humor, and her talent. But you will get all of that from this post. And MORE!
And I'll be back at the end. To join in your applause.
I mean--aren't you hooked by the title alone?
How an assignment to Cuba as a TV Journalist, during the meeting of Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro, inspired two books, a life-long love affair, five kids and a few of my favorite recipes
By Linda Hurtado Bond
My first assignment outside of the United States came decades ago, when Cuba’s Fidel Castro invited Pope John Paul the second to Cuba for a meeting. I worked for the ABC station in Tampa at the time. The Bay area is home to a large and politically active Cuban American Community. Many fled Castro’s revolution, settling in Tampa, and had not been back to their homeland in over 30 years. Not by choice.
Assigned by my TV station to make the trip with a group affiliated with a local Catholic Church, I chose to do a story on a family with five sons. Only two of the five decided to make the trip to Cuba with their parents. Those two wanted to see the island through their parents eyes before their parents died and both feared – with restrictions on travel – this might be their only chance. The other three brothers refused to go to Cuba as long as Castro still ruled. They blamed Castro for forcing their parents to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They blamed Castro for their parent’s struggled to provide for five boys in a new world, not knowing the English language.
While interviewing Juan and Josefina Figueredo about this historic trip back to Cuba and their past, both began to cry. Juan cried while recounting his decision to leave his home country, so his children had the freedom to practice the Catholic religion. Josefina cried while describing the moment she hugged her father for the last time, knowing she would never see him again.
One of their sons, Jorge, stopped the interview and began to chastise me because I made his parents cry. I thought, “The nerve of him. This is my job, and this story is heartfelt and compelling. It needs to be told.” I ignored his resistance and finished my interview. He glared at me the whole time.
Ours was a true enemies-to-lovers romance. 😊
Traveling to Cuba on that assignment, our first stop was to the farm outside of Havana owned by a relative of Jorge’s. When we got there, and the matriarch realized Victor, Jorge’s older brother, was among the group, she broke down and sobbed. Then she went into her bedroom and pulled out a shirt from under her mattress. It was a little red shirt and it had been perfectly pressed and preserved. She took that little red shirt off of Victor on the last day he’d been at her house. She’d taken care of Victor for months while another one of Jorge’s brothers had been sick. The matriarch kept that shirt for 30 years, praying she’d see the baby, Victico, again before she died.
That moment brought both me and Jorge to tears. And when I saw how moved Jorge was, and how deeply he loved his Cuban family, something inside me shifted. I began to see this adversary in a different way. If he could love these relatives, that he’d never met before, imagine how he would love his own family!
After that trip to Cuba, Jorge’s mother would invite me over to dinner. She knew I’d lost my own mother to breast cancer. I loved those dinners, especially when her handsome son, Jorge, would show up. He showed up a lot.
Two and a half years later, we married. Jorge had two kids from a previous marriage. We had two of our own. And later, we adopted his cousin from Cuba who came to America in a boat, using America’s wet foot-dry foot policy to stay. Now we had a big, beautiful Cuban American family, bound by love, if not blood.
Flash forward a decade, and I’m writing my second novel called Cuba Undercover. I needed to write a book about this beautiful country left in decay by political upheaval, and divided loyalties. I needed to write about the men and women who still shouldered a love for the country they were kicked out of or were forced to leave under duress. And I needed to include a love story because that’s where I found mine.
For my fourth book, a serial killer thriller, I once again tapped into my love for the Cuban American culture, this time diving deeper into back closet traditions, formed on the island, but carried in secret suitcases to America. I wanted to introduce readers to Santeria and make that little know religion the tie that bound a Cuban American reporter to a vigilante serial killer.
That one trip to Cuba changed my life in so many ways.
In honor of my mother-in-law Josefina Figueredo and her amazing cooking skills I’m sharing a recipe for her rice pudding.
HANK: Okay, interrupting here to say--see? Told you. Isn't she amazing?
And I'll give a copy of ALL THE BROKEN GIRLS to one lucky commenter--just tell us ONE thing you love about his post!
But wait there's more: Linda is sharing a recipe! Then scroll down for her fabulous bio, and more about this gripping thriller.
Abuela Fina’s rice pudding recipe:
½ cup white rice
3 ½ cups water
2-inch piece shaved lemon peel
½ stick cinnamon
4 cups milk
1 cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Put lemon peel and cinnamon stick in water and bring to a boil. Add rice. Turn on medium heat. Cook rice on medium heat until tender. Add salt, sugar, milk and vanilla. Cook while stirring until creamy. When creamy, pour into small glass containers and let cool. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Cover and cool in refrigerator. Serves 8.
By day, Linda Hurtado Bond is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. By night, she’s an author of James Bond like adventures and heart-stopping thrillers. Linda met her husband Jorge on assignment in Cuba, twenty-some years later they've raised a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, a paramedic firefighter, and an aspiring psychologist. A breast cancer survivor, she’s active in the Tampa community raising money and awareness. When not working she finds time for her passions, her husband Jorge, world travel, classic movies, and solving a good mystery. Visit Linda at
ALL THE BROKEN GIRLS
When one falls
Crime reporter Mari Alvarez was never able to solve her mother’s murder ten years ago. But when a woman is gunned down on the doorstep of her West Tampa neighborhood, Mari can’t shake the eerie sense of connection.
The others will break
Now there have been two murders in two days. Each crime scene awash with arcane clues—and without a trace of DNA from the killer. And for each victim, a doll. The first is missing an eye. The second is missing a heart. But are these clues leading to the killer…or messages for Mari?
Unless she plays the game...
Caught up in a maelstrom of Old-World superstition, secrets, and ties to her own past, Mari has only one option. Put the puzzle together before someone else dies—even if it destroys her career. But there’s no escaping the hungry spider’s web when it’s been made just for you…