María Carla Chicuén ’10 and Antonio may have grown up just blocks away in Havana, Cuba, but it took a Harvard invention to bring them together.
“We found each through Facebook,” Chicuén said, referring to the social networking website that began in a Harvard dorm room. “All of the sudden we started chatting. It was finals period here, but during the summer, we started writing to each other, and the writing got to the level of five to six pages a day.”
They spent time as pen pals first, but before they reconnected face-to-face, Antonio—who requested that his last name not be printed—wrote that he knew there was something special about the woman writing back.
“My first memory of Maria Carla is actually a memory of her voice, when, after spending months writing to each other, she called me from Italy,” he wrote in an e-mail from Cuba, where he lives now. “I will never forget that moment.”
Last summer, Chicuén traveled to Cuba to do research for her history thesis about the island nation’s diplomatic relations with Spain and Great Britain. Antonio was there to meet her at the airport.
They spent a lot of the next weeks together. Chicuén and Antonio had known each other a bit when they were kids—before Chicuén immigrated to Miami—but they had lost touch. Now, they made up for lost time.
Antonio, a few years older, was pursuing a master’s degree in digital systems at the Polytechnic University José Antonio Echeverría in Havana. But he still found time to help Chicuén with her thesis research. And, of course, they found time to spend together.
Their first date came just a few days after Chicuén arrived. The pair strolled down el Malecón, a historic and picturesque esplanade along the Havana coast. Next came dinner at a restaurant with an ocean view. And then they danced the night away. “That first date confirmed that we were meant to be together. We just enjoyed each other so much, and the mere presence of the other was enough to feel happy,” Antonio wrote.
One day later that summer, they hiked together to the top of the tallest mountain in Cuba. When they arrived back in Havana, Antonio proposed—a moment the groom-to-be described as “completely spontaneous, between smiles and tears.”
At the end of the summer, Chicuén traveled back to Cambridge to start senior year, but she’s returned to Cuba every month since to see her fiancé. And with the fortuitous change of Harvard’s calendar, she got to spend a full month in Havana with Antonio as she completed work on her thesis.
The two said they are still finalizing plans for next year and have not yet set a date for the wedding.