This is part of a Yahoo News series honoring some of the American lives lost to COVID-19. Their stories are told by family and friends, who were left to deal with their often sudden and painful deaths.
Carmelina Inchaustegui, 77, of Miami, died on Jan. 17, 2021, following an almost monthlong battle with COVID-19. She’s among hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives to the disease since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Inchaustegui immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in the early sixties, shortly after Fidel Castro took control over the island on Jan. 1, 1959. The Cuban Revolution unleashed the largest refugee flow to the U.S. in history, and Inchaustegui was one of over a million Cubans who fled the island and came to the U.S. in search for a better life.
Like many Cuban exiles, she settled in Miami. Her daughter Jennifer de Castroverde told Yahoo News that she was a staple of the Cuban exile community there and was known and loved by many: “She was known by the rich, by the poor, by the politicians and even the criminals.”
Her favorite spot, de Castroverde said, was the outdoor coffee window at Versailles, a long-running Cuban restaurant in the heart of Little Havana.
“It's become a real tourist hot spot, but it's also a place of nostalgia. This is a place where the Cuban community comes together, and you'll find generations of individuals who are still talking about Cuba. They're talking about Cuban in the past, they're talking about Cuba now, they're talking about politics. They're talking about music. … It was my mom's favorite place,” she said.
Her mother, de Castroverde says, “never had it easy.” She raised both her children as a single mother, and worked many jobs to be able to get them through private school and provide for them. Jennifer, who is an acting professor at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, says that her mother’s unconditional love and hard work made it possible for her to succeed in life.
Inchaustegui was hospitalized on Dec. 24, 2020, after experiencing severe nausea. She was diagnosed with heart failure and was being treated for it when she contracted COVID during her hospital stay. Her daughter told Yahoo News that Inchaustegui had stayed home since mid-March of last year, and had sacrificed almost a year of her life in isolation to avoid getting the virus. It was devastating for her to learn that Inchaustegui became infected at the hospital in just a couple of days.
De Castroverde told Yahoo News her mother was her best friend. She says that losing Inchaustegui to the virus has been one of the most painful experiences of her life. But she says her mother’s greatest lesson gives her strength during this difficult time.
“She would always tell me, ‘Jennifer, now you are a mother, and you must move forward for your child. You have to be a pillar of strength for your child. You can't fall apart as you have a child.’ And that is the thing that for me is the greatest lesson I learned from my mom, is how to be a great mom, because she was a great mom,” de Castroverde said.
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