Last year Christina McHale traveled to Australia, Maui, Rio de Janeiro, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, Paris, London and Tokyo, as well as other glamorous global hot spots on the WTA tour. But it wasn’t until the season was over that she had the chance to visit the one place where she wanted to go the most: Havana, Cuba.
No, the city doesn’t host a pro tennis tournament. And, no, it hasn’t been a regular tourist destination for Americans for half a century. But it has something much more important for McHale: family roots. McHale’s maternal grandparents were born in Cuba, as was her mother, Margarita. After leaving in 1962 and making stops in Spain and Boston, the family wound up in New Jersey, the state where Christina was born 30 years later.
Christina’s grandfather, Sergio, was a journalist in Havana. By ’62, it was becoming clear that the three-year-old communist regime of Fidel Castro was growing more oppressive. Sergio wrote about people’s fears for the future in his articles until he and his wife, Maria Livia, were told they had to leave.
Sergio has passed away, but Maria Livia is still going very strong at 83, and it was Christina’s longtime dream to travel back to Cuba with her. Last fall, with relations between the U.S. and Cuba finally beginning to thaw, the 24-year-old saw her chance. So after all of her work trips were over for 2016, Christina took a once-in-a-lifetime all-girls excursion: Her mother, Margarita; sister, Lauren; and grandmother flew to Cuba. It was Maria Livia’s first trip back in 54 years.